The case relating to Family Pension is of equal significance and importance. When a pensioner passes away his widow is now entitled to a family pension, the amount of which was previously very meagre but has now sufficiently increased. The family pension scheme was introduced in 1964, with the orders that it will have application only to those persons who retired after 1.1.1964. We felt that this decision of the government, taken many years ago, was patently discriminatory, depriving the widows of pre-1964 pensioners of its benefits. There could obviously be no justification for any discrimination between a widow of pre-1964 pensioner and the widow of post-1964 pensioner. On the passing away of pre-1964 pensioner his widow was deprived of the benefit of this pension. We wrote to the government to remove the anomaly and discrimination, but to no effect. Thereupon a writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court from the platform of COMMON CAUSE, highlighting the deprivation caused to the widows of pre-1964 pensioners. This case was decided in our favour, the Supreme Court directing the government to give pensions to widows of pre-1964 pensioners on the same basis as decided for pensioners retiring after 1.1.1964, and also to pay them arrears from 1977 when rules relating to the family pension had been revised. This decision, likewise, was later followed up by all the state governments. The result of this decision has been that hundreds of thousands of old widows, who had never dreamt that they would be made entitled to any pension, started getting pensions, and were paid as arrears, a hefty amount by all standards, from 1977. We received letters of blessings from numerous old widows, through their families, for the gift of pension and arrears they received; it raised their status in the families and brought them within the household from the nooks and verandahs where they had been for long relegated. This decision is known by the citation as Smt. Ponnammal & Ors Vs Union of India, (AIR 1985 SC 1196) based on our writ petition no. 13181/84; although the decision is based on our writ petition there was already some petition of a widow which was pending before the court, and in accordance with their procedure the decision derives its name from the previous petition. (AIR - 1985 - SC - 1196)

A very large number of problems of individual pensioners, as well as pensioners of some institutions and organisations, keep coming to COMMON CAUSE from all over the country. These are referred by us to the concerned authorities of the central government, including the pensions department concerned with civil pensioners, Railway Board in the case of railway pensioners, the Adjutant General's office for defence pensioners, and also to state governments and concerned institutions. Often these references have yielded positive results, and have brought blessings of the pensioners to COMMON CAUSE.

April – June 2005