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Clerks play gods and Sumitra turns 105

Tamluk, Dec. 14: Sumitra Das is 40, going on 106.

A “clerical mistake” has made Sumitra older by 65 years and ineligible for a loan she needs to expand her business.

The 40-year-old woman, who makes bamboo baskets at her Kolaghat home, was 99 years old according to the voter card issued to her in 2006. But the anomaly has kept escaping the eyes of even poll officials in the past six years, only to be noticed earlier this month.

“I wanted a soft loan of Rs 20,000 under the Mahila Samriddhi Yojana. I went to the office (of the West Bengal SC and ST Development and Finance Corporation) in Tamluk on January 3 to inquire about the procedure. An employee asked for my documents. When he saw my voter card, he told me I was not eligible for the loan. According to my voter card, I am 105 years old now,” Sumitra said.

SC and ST women aged between 18 and 50 years are eligible for a soft loan, a corporation official said.

District manager of the corporation, Avik Chatterjee, said an age proof was mandatory for the approval of the loan, usually given to encourage self-employment in rural areas.

“We need a document confirming the age because a woman above 50 is not eligible for the loan,” Chatterjee said.

Sumitra said she and her husband Basudam, who works as a labourer in a private hosiery company and earns Rs 2,000 a month, shifted to Ramchandrapur in Kolaghat six years ago. “While changing the address, we did not have any problem as we had our old voter cards. When we got the new ones in 2006, we did not notice that both our cards mentioned our ages as 99. No one pointed this out even when we went to vote last year,” she said.

Sumitra and Basudam had on December 6 demonstrated along with 50 villagers outside the local Khanyadihi gram panchayat office demanding that the couple’s ages be corrected immediately, but nothing has been done so far.

“I needed the loan to expand my business. I don’t have a fixed income and my husband’s earnings are not enough,” said Sumitra, a mother of two.

“We are not directly involved with correcting such mistakes in voter cards. But we can request the district administration to correct the mistake, ” said Prasanta Mondal, the panchayat chief.

Additional district magistrate (general) Moloy Haldar said: “This is clearly a clerical mistake. But there is scope to rectify it. If the couple approach us, we will rectify the mistake after a verification.”