Village volunteers replaced as Chandrababu Naidu leads government officials in disbursing social security pensions

Chandrababu Naidu launches NTR Bharosa scheme, replaces village volunteers with government staff for disbursing pensions.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jul 01, 2024 | 12:29 PM Updated Jul 01, 2024 | 3:47 PM

Village volunteers replaced as Chandrababu Naidu leads government officials in disbursing social security pensions

The familiar village volunteers were conspicuously absent when Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu launched the disbursement of social security pensions, NTR Bharosa, in the state on Monday, 1 July.

Naidu, who reached Penumaka in the Guntur district, visited the eligible pensioners, and enquired about their welfare. He explained what they could expect from them, even as village and ward secretariat staff distributed the pensions.

The chief minister shared a cup of tea with the family of a pension beneficiary, Ramulu. Naidu also promised the pensioner a new house.

Earlier, the chief minister and Human Resources Minister Nara Lokesh delivered the pensions at a few doorsteps.  The pension has been hiked to ₹4,000 from ₹3,000 per month. Naidu handed over to the beneficiaries the hiked pension as well as three months’ arrears of ₹3,000, at the rate of ₹1,000 per month.

Related: Change of guard in Andhra Pradesh puts village volunteers in a limbo

Volunteers on the edge

Naidu and his minister-son Lokesh heralded a new beginning in the distribution of social security pensions. During the previous YSRCP government, about 2.6 lakh village and ward volunteers distributed pensions at the beneficiaries’ doorsteps.

However, the volunteer scheme ran into rough weather with the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordering that only the village and ward secretariat staff should be delivering the pensions.

Following the court order ahead of the general elections, the YSRCP  allegedly forced about 49,000 village and ward volunteers to resign and work for the party. The party promised to hire them back once it returned to power after the elections. However, the YSRCP faced a debilitating defeat at the hustings.

Back in power after five years, Naidu decided to assign the government staff rather than volunteers for the job. He thus sent clear indications that that the volunteers would have nothing to do with the disbursement of pensions.

With the TDP maintaining a stoic silence on the volunteers, many of them have been on the razor’s edge, not knowing what lay ahead.

Related: Andhra Pradesh government taps village, ward-level secretariat staff to disburse pensions

Welfare re-defined

After commencing the distribution of pensions, the chief minister, interacting with the beneficiaries at Penumaka, said that the programme signalled the beginning of a slew of measures to improve the living standards of the poor.

“Welfare means filling light in the darkened lives of the poor,” he said.

He recalled the previous YSRCP government saying that it was not possible to distribute pensions by deploying secretariat staff and how he challenged its view. “Today, I am using 1.25 lakh staff of the village ad ward secretariats to do the job,” he said.

Taking a dig at the previous YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government, he said that as he dug deeper into his predecessor’s governance, he found only mistakes and acts of mismanagement, besides a pile of public debts.

“I am reversing the trend. Let us move forward carefully. I intend to create wealth and distribute it to the people,”  he said.

The chief minister issued a stern warning to officials against their practise of putting up curtains, as part of security measures, whenever he visited any place. “I have already told the officials to unlearn old practices, and if they don’t, they would have to face the music,” he said.

The chief minster said that he was going slow because it is now only the beginning. “Very soon you would see Chandrababu Naidu of 1995. I then used to work and made others to follow suit,” he said.

Under the NTR Bharosa, the state government is distributing ₹4,408 crore in one day to 65.18 lakh beneficiaries across the state. Each secretariat staff has been entrusted with 50 households and in areas where there is a dearth of staff, employees from other departments are deployed.

(Edited by Majnu Babu)

(South First is now on WhatsApp and Telegram)