Meet Noor Saba, who has been fighting for her late husband’s pension for the past 35 years and is now threatening to immolate herself on April 30th at Jantar Mantar if she doesn’t get her dues
TAHMINA LASKAR | Special to Caravan
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]oor Saba, a 73-year old widow threatens to immolate herself in public. It is quite intriguing that what makes a person almost at the final phase of her life so desperate. There is an uneasy calm on her face and you can almost feel her impatience even when she is silent.
The battle that she has been waging against the system has been a long and excruciating one. Sitting in Delhi under open sky at Jantar Mantar, the heat and the discomfort are trifle as compared to her 35 year long struggle for justice.
It all started when her husband, a school principal in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh died in harness in 1980. On claiming his pension that she is supposed to have being his widow, she faced demands for bribes which she did not oblige.
After running from pillar to post for some time she took to legal recourse for her right. She filed a case with the Allahabad HC claiming her dues from the UP government. The HC in the year 1997 directed that she be paid what is due to her but the UP government did not comply. Troubled with the delay when she filed a contempt petition, the UP government authorities came up with an excuse that she has been already paid but the service records of her husband are not available and hence cannot be produced in support.
However somehow in 2000 she managed to catch an official asking her for bribe by the anti-corruption bureau and the service records in original of her deceased husband were sealed along with some fake records created just to mislead the courts.
At this she filed an affidavit in the HC describing the situation. The judge wanted a compromise suggesting the corrupt official not be implicated and that she testify in his favor and then only the pension benefits will be released which she of course did not agree to.
As a result the sitting judge passed a contradictory order stating on the one hand that she has been paid whatever dues accrued to her so far and on the other hand that her husband is not a government employee. This was stayed by the division bench of the HC itself. Following which a writ was filed with the Supreme Court of India and during the hearings, the UP government filed all fake records, 12 in all including the fact that they did not file the contradictory order passed by the HC in 2007, instead the original writ and the judgment were forged with.
A series of RTIs were filed which proved 4 documents completely fake and made up and the rest were being examined. While examining those judges in the apex court apparently said to her that, why did you mess up with the government authorities at all? This shows how such corruption and recklessness are being defended by those sitting on the highest seats of justice.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ordered that after deducting the amount of pension benefits that she has received already she be paid her arrears within 3 months. When she filed an RTI enquiring about her pension payment order or PPO she was told that she should not interfere with government machinery in the RTI reply.
This order was never complied with. Instead the UP government filed a fake compliance report stating all her arrears have been paid. They also reclaimed that her husband was not a government employee. Fed up with such travesty of justice she filed a petition before the President of India that permission be granted to prosecute the corrupt judges involved under the Prevention of Corruption Act but it seems justice still eludes her as there has been no movement so far in her concern.
Noor Saba is now threatening to burn all the honorary medals and certificates that her husband had received during his service on 28th April 2015. And if her demands are not met she says she will set herself on fire on 30th April 2015. What will it take an insensitive and indifferent system to look up and notice small, helpless people like Noor Saba? When will this culture of bureaucratic impunity end? After 35-long years of struggle for justice, there are more questions than answers in this characteristically Kafkaesque story, which can be a story of any of us ordinary citizens. Mr. President, are you listening? Would you finally grant Noor Saba justice and her due?
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