Pension tracking for WB school teachers

Retired school teachers in West Bengal can check the status of their pension files at banglarmukh.com

sarthak

Sarthak Ray | January 20, 2012



Early last year, the Left Front government in West Bengal launched an online platform for pensioners to check the status of their retirement funds. Since then, retired schoolteachers across Bengal have been keeping track of their pension status over the internet.

Bipin Roychowdhury, a beneficiary, says, “This is a good platform and helps several retired teachers like me in tracking pension details.”

The delivery system in West Bengal is known to be slow and inefficient. But this electronic service, which is part of a larger e-governance initiative, has rallied round. While banglarmukh.com acts as the face of the government, wbfin.gov.in, the finance department portal, offers specific e-services including pension and COSA (computerisation of salary accounts), an integrated database for state government employees.

The Left Front days saw a vast number of cases of pensions delayed and denied. Soon after coming to power in the state, chief minister Mamata Banerjee took the lead in framing policies fo0r disbursal of pension to schoolteachers in a fast and efficient manner. “The government is making an effort to expedite pensions,” state education minister, Bratya Basu said recently.

According to Bikaspriya Das, who is with the inspectorate of the state’s school education department, the availability of an online search for the status of pension files has been a hit with the school teachers. “Pensioners are happy that they do not have to travel frequently to know the status of their files,” he said.

One has to enter one’s name, date of birth, the district inspector’s memo number and the date after logging in to get the details.

While the service has been a major relief, there are some teething troubles also. Issues range from technical difficulties to an outright lack of awareness. There are those who haven’t heard of the service, while some don’t know how to navigate the interface and retrieve the desired information.
Schoolteacher from Bankura, R.K. Mondal says that he has heard the chief minister talk of swift delivery of pensions. However, the lack of awareness has held him back. “I don’t know how to access the online information,” he says.

“I do not know advanced use of the computer, nor do I have an internet facility – I think efforts should be made at the ground level and pensions dispensed at the earliest,” says Jayanto Banik, a teacher from Purba Medinipur, who retired last year.

Officials too admit that there are some glitches. “The delay in uploading the information of the receipt the file by the pensions department is very confusing,” Das said.

On the technical side, there are times when the webpage just does not open. Sometimes the pension status webpage does not appear for days. A school teacher, refusing to be identified, said that when he checked his status online he found that the pension file had been received and assigned. Although it helped him track his file, he hasn’t received any further information till date. “It wasn’t of much help,” he rues.

The there are the others who believe while the service is essential and of great help, what really matters is whether the pension is eventually paid or not.

In spite of the glitches, the service has a growing set of fans. “This is doing us great help – the level of uncertainty has come down,” says P.N. Bhowmik, a primary school teacher in Burdwan district, who started availing of the facility only recently.

“Such projects are helpful in providing citizen services to a wide cross-section of the population. Using technology, the government and other public sector organisations can build new kinds of relationships with citizens, putting tools and resources directly at their disposal,” said Amit Malik, vice president, Cisco—India & SAARC. It enables citizens to be more actively involved, he added. Cisco is in talks with the WB government for work on many of its e-governance schemes.

Chief minister Bannerjee has been actively overseeing the pension disbursal system. After she assumed charge, she had said, “We have decided that they [schoolteachers] will get their pensions immediately after retirement. In many case, the pensions have reached families only after the death of the beneficiaries.”

She has also spoken of introducing measures to ease the otherwise lengthy process of pension clearance and disbursal. One of these is the introduction of ‘provisional’ pensions that teachers will be paid right from the first month of retirement.

Cisco’s Das said that a SMS notification system for pensions could also prove to be a much-needed service.
 

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