LUCKNOW: Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya and his son Abhishek will each get Rs. 50,000 every month for the rest of their lives from the Uttar Pradesh government whenever the Samajwadi Party (SP) is in power there.
That’s because the state cabinet decided on Tuesday to give these ‘pensions’ to all recipients of the Yash Bharti Samman, the state’s highest honour, and all three actors have won the award. This award is discontinued whenever the SP is not in power.
The monthly pension of Rs 50,000 is among the highest in the country and it may be more than even what several government officials receive. By comparison, freedom fighters and their spouses are eligible for Rs 20,129 a month, ex-Andaman political pensioners receive Rs 23,309 a month and unmarried and unemployed daughters of freedom fighters receive Rs 4,770 a month.
The pension scheme for Yash Bharti recipients has also emerged as the most lucrative pension scheme in the country. A Government of India pension scheme for old and poor artists, being implemented by UP’s department of culture, awards a sum of Rs 2,000 per month to performing artists who have earned a living through the profession for at least 10 years. India’s cricket board pays Rs 15,000 to cricketers who’ve played at least 25 first class matches and Rs 50,000 to former test cricketers who’ve played at least 100 Test matches.
Earlier, the Yash Bharti awardees would get Rs 5 lakhs, but in its revised avatar, recipients are given a cash award of Rs 11 lakh, a shawl and a citation. There is no fixed number of recipients of the award each year. It’s given to those who’ve achieved eminence in the fields of films, art, literature and sport.
About 150 people — who trace their origins to the state—have been awarded the prize that was instituted in 1994. Amitabh Bachchan’s father, noted litterateur Harivansh Rai Bachchan was also conferred the honour in its inaugural year.
Earlier this year, the SP government gave the award to 56 people. Singer Rekha Bhardwaj, classical vocalists Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra, poet Bekal Utsahi, Padma Shri awardee Arunima Sinha, ace shooter Jeetu Rai, Kathak dancer Kumkum Dhar, ghazal singer Reeta Ganguly, film actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Jimmy Shergil, singer Kailash Kher, and wrestler Alka Tomar were among the winners this year.
UP’s chief minister Akhilesh Yadav ruled out the possibility that artists, sportspersons or litterateurs will return their awards under an SP government. “Pension will be given to all recipients. The question of anyone being forced to return an award will not arise in Samajwadi regime,” he said.
It is ridiculous that Uttar Pradesh should be giving pensions of Rs 50,000 per month to all who have got the Yash Bharti award. That the likes of the Bachchans are part of the list only underlines the absurdity of the move. A state which has a per capita annual income of just over Rs 40,000 should not be splurging on giving monthly pensions to those who do not need it. It would have been quite different if the state had proposed to give pensions to those awardees, if any, who are in a precarious financial situation. That may make sense, but a pension for all awardees does not.