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Fleeting moments

January 1, 2015



Ancient talk

The civilised nations take more care of their sick and elderly people than they do their younger citizens. In our case, it’s quite the opposite. The elderly and infirm are made to face untold miseries because of widespread government apathy towards providing them their basic rights. Ask the pensioners. Ask those who have to deal with the National Saving Centres.
The Federal Service Tribunal issued an order on December 2, 2010, to treat the cost of living allowance at seven percent and consider it part of the pension for government employees in BPS 1 to 22. This pertained to those employees who retired during 1995 to 2001. Different rules applied to those pensioners who retired before 1990. Why couldn’t the rules be made simpler for our pensioners who are old and need every penny to get by in life.
Why discriminate between old and new pensioners? Aren’t all pensioners the same? Don’t all pensioners face the problem of soaring prices of commodities of daily use, electricity, gas and petrol alike? All of them face the challenges of price hikes and have to meet the social requirements of their families. Many of them even lament that now that they are about to retire to the hereafter, the government forces them to go to the courts to claim their rights’.
Imagine the pensioners spending their money to hire legal aids for representing them in the courts to claim the enhanced amount of their pension, as decreed by the service tribunal. Sadly, successive governments have been apathetic to the plight of these retirees who gave the best part of their lives to the service. In fact, senior bureaucrats should empathise with their retired colleagues, and should be more forthcoming to help them, instead of reminding the retirees of mundane rules and regulations.
The next ordeal the pensioners face is when they visit the National Saving Centres if they had deposited their commuted amounts of pension there. Visiting a saving centre is an experience in itself.

It’s depressing to see the staffers rummaging through stacks of large registers, making the same entry in different places. And that too in the age of computers.
This goes on in dimly lit, scantily staffed and poorly furnished saving centres where the old pensioners and other depositors have to wait for hours for their turns. This is a raw deal for the elderly citizens, indeed most unfair to them at this stage of their lives.
Even in their day to day life, senior citizens are denied their rights and, in other words, maltreated. Many upscale multinational shopping giants have marked parking slots for visitors in wheelchairs. But what do we see in a parking place where a wheelchair sign exists? An arrogant fat driver with a short beard, snoring behind the wheel of a monstrous vehicle while the ‘Sahib and family’ have gone inside to shop.
Could we be more callous towards old and fragile citizens of our society? No elderly person expects someone ahead to hold the door for him to enter in a shopping centre but surely no one would like to be pushed aside either.
The irony, however, is that we were a civilised nation some decades ago. What went wrong? How did we degrade ourselves from a fairly civilised society to almost a tribal one? In the 1970s and thereabout, one remembers people used to talk in a civilised manner either in Urdu, English or in local dialect but politely. Not anymore.
Even on the walking track in the Model Town Park where hundreds of men and women walk, one hears ugly indirect expletives loud and clear. It seems the times have changed; many of us have turned ancient, pensioners or no pensioners.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.
Email: [email protected]