The Pensioners’ Association supports retired employees in their golden years
As you take a leisurely stroll down Gulmohar Marg, your gaze might be drawn to a quaint two-storeyed complex adjacent to the walkway across the IISc main building, its vintage facade standing quietly amidst the hustle and bustle of the campus. The sign near its entrance reads Pensioners’ Association.
On a typical Monday afternoon, if you walk into this building, you are likely to meet K Somavathi Devi, a retired employee of IISc, with her curious eyes fixed on a computer screen resting on a desk amidst several neatly labelled files. “Learning doesn’t retire with us,” she says, smiling, her fingers navigating slowly over the keyboard. “Every day is a chance to explore something new, to challenge our minds.” Somavathi is the current Joint Secretary of the Pensioners’ Association. At 71, she is eager to learn how to upload photos on a webpage. Her warm smile greets anyone who enters. Speaking to her reveals how there’s an entire community of people like her striving to remain active and support each other in their old age.
The IISc Pensioners’ Association (IIScPA) is a group of retired employees of the Institute who meet together often to remain connected with each other and with the Institute they once called their professional home. “For us, retirement is not an end but the beginning of a new chapter in our journey with IISc,” says Somavathi. “Despite having completed their service at IISc, the pensioners have not forgotten their roots and the meaningful impact the Institute had on their lives while working here.”
How it began
Established on 24 December 1980, the association serves as a platform for its members to reminisce about old times, stay connected with their peers and the Institute, and continue to make a difference in their own way. NC Shivaprakash, the current President of IIScPA and a retired faculty member from the Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, recalls how the association started. Back in 1972, V Kasturi, a former staff member in the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, first proposed the idea of establishing an association to help retired employees deal with their post-retirement concerns. “Though the concept received support from the then director, Prof Satish Dhawan,” Shivaprakash reflects, “it encountered numerous obstacles, which led to a nearly decade-long delay in its realisation.” It was only in 1980 that Kasturi’s vision came to fruition. A self-appointed committee comprising VK Kini, HS Annaji Rao, TS Sivasubramanian, VR Gangadharaiah, C Satyanarayana, MS Venkatachalam, and SV Srinivasan formed the association. They successfully registered it as a society under the name ‘IISc Pensioners’ Association’ under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act 1960.
In its early stages, the association had only a few members and organised a limited number of welfare activities. However, under the leadership of the late Gangadharaiah, the association became more active. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the IISc administration for their unwavering support to our association and for providing an office space within the campus. Their consistent backing has been instrumental in supporting our retired colleagues,” Shivaprakash shares.
The IIScPA is a close-knit community comprising retired faculty and staff members. According to Shivaprakash, the association strives to create a nurturing environment for retired employees, emphasising the importance of social connections, physical and emotional well-being, and financial security.
The IIScPA is a close-knit community comprising retired faculty and staff members
All permanent faculty and staff members who have worked at IISc and subsequently retired or opted for voluntary retirement are eligible to become members of the association. Those who wish to become life members are required to complete a membership enrolment form and pay an enrolment fee of Rs 3,500 to avail the benefits and services provided by the association.
The IIScPA managing committee includes a president, vice president, secretary, joint secretary, treasurer and other executive committee members. Each committee serves for a period of four years. BS Sheshachala, formerly the superintendent of IISc hostels, is currently the secretary of this committee. He used to be involved in organising activities for the Kannada Sangha at IISc; even after retiring, he says that he still has a strong connection to the Institute. “After four decades of my deep-rooted affiliation with the Institute, working for the Pensioners’ Association has given me a special chance to reconnect with current and former colleagues,” says Sheshachala. “It keeps me active.”
Among the services that the association provides are supporting members in handling their pension payments and making use of the medical facilities on campus and outside.
“A significant accomplishment of the association has been the provision of medical benefits equal to that provided to the current faculty and staff,” explains Shivaprakash.
The association also organises social, cultural, and recreational events to foster camaraderie among its members. In addition, the association has set up a Mutual Contributory Death Relief Fund and a Benevolent Fund. These funds are used to cover medical expenses, support the education of some of the pensioners’ children, and provide assistance to bereaved families. These initiatives, Shivaprakash says, have significantly contributed to enhancing the quality of life for retired employees by ensuring a more secure and stable retirement life.
“To maintain effective communication,” explains Shivaprakash, “the office bearers have established a WhatsApp group, and we use email to keep members informed about circulars, notifications, and any issues pertaining to the Institute’s administration.”
“Working for the IIScPA plays an integral role in making my post-retirement journey more meaningful. My experience with the association has been unique, distinct from my teaching and research years at IISc,” reflects Shivaprakash. The association collaborates closely with similar associations at the state and national levels to promote mutual aid and benefit schemes. Its members also organise lectures and seminars on topics relevant to health, financial investments, and other interests of pensioners. In the future, they also plan to set up a library for their members and publish electronic news bulletins. Some pensioners who participate in the association’s activities are quite old, past the age of 80, but still eagerly attend the meetings and events, Shivaprakash says. “You get the privilege of sharing in the nostalgia of the Institute’s past [with them],” he adds.
“Working for the IIScPA plays an integral role in making my post-retirement journey more meaningful”
Every year, the association conducts a General Body meeting on National Pensioners Day, which falls on 17 December. These annual events act as a platform for the retirees to come together and engage in heartfelt conversations. Past directors and many faculty members participate in these meetings and help in addressing some of the members’ concerns, Shivaprakash adds. Sometimes, these meetings are organised for special reasons. In 2022, the association invited Dr Satish Rao, the IISc Medical Officer, as well as the doctors, nurses, technicians, and other staff of the IISc Health Centre, and treated them to a special lunch to thank them for their service and medical assistance during the various COVID-19 waves.
These annual gatherings, apart from other sports and cultural activities, enable them to reconnect with their past and form new connections, all while enjoying their retirement.
The Pensioners’ Association Sports Meet is yet another cherished annual event to have some fun together. On this day, the association organises various sports and recreational activities. This year’s sports meet, which took place on 8 July 2023, at the Tata Memorial Club, saw increased participation from women retirees. Different activities were organised for different age groups (60-70, 70-80, and 80 and above) and included a variety of games such as the Walking Race, Bombay Blast, Lucky Chair, Passing the Ball, and one-minute challenges like Lighting the Candle and Coin Setting. The sports meet also provides the association members a chance to sit together, share personal challenges, and reminisce about their time at IISc.
“I look back on my association with the Institute with great fondness,” shares Somavathi, who had spent 30 years as a staff member at the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She remembers the times when IISc theses were hardbound, printed, and dispatched to reviewers via post. “Today, every task is just a click away. I have worked on both types of systems, and I deeply cherish and value these experiences,” she says, smiling. Somavathi joined the Pensioners’ Association in 2015, three years after her retirement, and has been an active member of the managing committee since 2017. She comes to the office three days a week to manage its paperwork and correspondence.
“I receive numerous calls covering a range of topics, from income tax filings to insurance form claims and medical emergencies. Managing all these tasks can be overwhelming. We warmly welcome more active participation, especially from women, in shouldering these responsibilities and enhancing our activities together,” she says.
As to what keeps her motivated to work even at her age, she explains that her voluntary service to the association is based on her motto: Kayakave Kailasa – Work is Worship. “As human beings, it is our duty to lend a helping hand to one another until the end of our lives.”
Gowri R is a former PhD student at the Department of Civil Engineering, IISc and former science writing intern at the Office of Communications