With the cash-strapped Punjab government holding old age pensions since April, Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh on Tuesday ordered immediate release of the same.

Expressing concern over the non-payment of old age pension in many places since April 2017, Amarinder expressed the hope that the process of payment would be regularised by March, with directions to make December payment by January 31.

Pointing out that the government was burdened by aRs 110 crore liability per month on account of pension arrears, the CM directed the Department of Social Security and Women and Child Development to start releasing the arrears in a staggered manner.

Amarinder issued the directives during a meeting to review various schemes of the Department. He also directed the Department to sort out the cases of absentee beneficiaries at the earliest, so that all eligible persons are included in the list, which now stands at 16,24,269, against the earlier 19,87,196.

The meeting was informed that 93,521 cases (4.71 per cent) had been found to be ineligible, while another 1,96,478 were absentee cases.

In another decision, Amarinder ordered to get latest specifications including colour for the free bicycles being distributed to girls, with no photograph of the CM, in contrast to the existing practice of having the CM’s picture on these specially coloured blue and saffron bicycles.

Ever since coming to power in March 2017, the Congress government have been facing financial crunch and is required to pay pending bills of about Rs 6,100 Crore which includes arrears for salary and social security pensions.