Thiruvananthapuram: The city corporation is in a quandary after a group of elderly nuns from St Anne’s convent in Muttada has formally sought pension meant for unmarried women above 50.
Stumped by this unusual request, the corporation’s welfare standing committee has sought the advice of the state government.
The application has been submitted by 10 nuns, all aged above 60. Sister Agnes, 63, one of the applicants, said they have requested this pension to make ends meet. “All of us are aged above 60 and some of us are nursing various ailments and we are finding it hard to find money even to purchase medicines,” said Sister Agnes who earns a small amount working at a social centre.
The pension amounts to Rs 1,100 per month and is normally given to women who have not been able to marry due to circumstances of life. A report prepared by the corporation in this regard observed that the nuns have voluntarily chosen to stay unmarried as part of religious practice and belief. “The government orders on welfare pension do not state clearly if nuns could be given welfare pension. We have sought a clarification from the state government. A decision cannot be taken independently as it could have financial implications,” said Geetha Gopal, chairperson, welfare standing committee.
St Anne’s convent comes under the Latin Catholic church and houses a total of 20 nuns. When asked if the church doesn’t provide support, Sister Agnes said they are supposed to earn money on their own, reported The Times of India.
However, Eugine H Pereira, vicar general of Latin Archdiocese, Trivandrum, said the nuns have been misled. “The request has come to our notice. We believe some external forces have intervened and misled the nuns. The church does not encourage such requests as becoming a nun is about leading a life of service,” Pereira said.
Finance minister Thomas Isaac said that there is no separate welfare pension for this category as of now. “Even welfare pension from central government is meant for BPL families and the amount is Rs 300. The government has not taken a decision on the matter of giving pension for nuns,” Isaac said.
Sources in the finance and local self-government department said that the government is not inclined to promote such an application. “The issue is highly communal and even from a financial perspective, the government will be at a loss for sourcing additional funds,” an official said.
As per stats available in 2016, beneficiaries for pension for unmarried women was 71,522. The state government recently sanctioned Rs 14.97 lakh as welfare pension for unmarried women for January, February and March in six corporations. Across all local bodies, an amount of Rs 10.13 crore was disbursed as welfare pension for unmarried women for January, February and March.