Shimla: Pensioners of an agricultural university in Himachal Pradesh on Friday observed the Independence Day as a `black day` because they have been deprived of their monthly pension for five months.
There are over 850 pensioners of the Palampur-based Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya.
"We have been forced to observe Independence Day as a `black day` to lodge our protest against the university authorities for not disbursing the pension since last March," said Sushil Kumar Phull, president of the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University Pensioners` Society.
Phull told a news agency that it has in fact become difficult for most of them to make both ends meet.
The pensioners, comprising retired professors and administrative staff, held a meeting at Palampur and criticised the government over its failure to bail out the cash-strapped university.
"The matter is currently in the high court, wherein the university has said that it has been pursuing the case for release of funds from the state government. But the government has claimed that they were not its employees," a pensioner said.
University officials said there were over 850 pensioners in the university.
"The total arrears liability on the university is over Rs 34 crore and its monthly pension bill is around Rs 2 crore," a senior official told a news agency.
Earlier, expressing displeasure over non-release of pension arrears with dearness allowance even after the high court ordered it in 2011, a division bench consisting of Justices Sanjay Karol and Rajiv Sharma in October 2013 directed the salary of the vice chancellor and the registrar of the university be stopped for contempt of court.
The order came following contempt proceedings moved by the pensioners` association, comprising over 450 members.
"The court had directed the respondents to release retirement gratuity, death gratuity and arrears of pension with dearness allowance within six months. Time to comply with the judgement was extended on request of the respondents. But despite that, the respondents failed to comply with the judgement. They also failed to respond to the legal notice served upon them by the petitioners` society," the bench had observed.
Phull said after the high court intervention the arrears of revised pay scales were released. "But from March onwards, our pension was stopped."
He said the pensioners have also been demanding their money should be disbursed from the state treasury.