Leading personalities, including cricketers Suresh Raina, Mohd Kaif and actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar, are said to have applied for pension under a scheme of Uttar Pradesh government, drawing criticism from opposition parties which said public money should not be spent in an arbitrary manner.
Last October, the state government had announced Rs 50,000 monthly pension to winners of Yash Bharti award of the state.
As many as 108 of the total number of 141 Yash Bharati winners have applied for the pension till the last date for the same on January 31, state Culture department sources said.
BJP state unit said "awards are an expression of gratitude for the contribution of an individual and it should not be spent in an arbitrary manner."
"Awardees like Suresh Raina, Raj Babbar, Nadira Babbar and Mohd Kaif are all prominent people..do they need this pension money?....," BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.
"How can public money be spent in an arbitray manner like this when farmers were committing suicide and drinking water was scarce in some parts of the state," he added.
Making an appeal to the awardees who have applied for pension, Pathak said that they need to follow the path shown by Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan who has declined pension so that the money could be put to better use.
Recalling an earlier decision of the Akhilesh Yadav government allowing Rs 20 lakhs to legislators to buy vehicles, Pathak said there appears to be "a sense of confusion" in the government which was seen floating schemes which it had to withdraw later under public pressure."
Congress spokesman Dwijendra Tripathi questioned the need for "squandering" public money for pension for Yash Bharti winners.
"This seems to be an effort of the government to benefit its own people whom they have felicitated with the award by putting some prominent people in the forefront," Tripathi said.
Senior officials preferred to keep silent on the issue with Culture Secretary Anita Meshram saying that she was not aware of the move to give pension to Yash Bharti winners.
A Yash Bharti awardee of 2006 Yogesh Praveen said that he has applied for the pension.
"I was called to the office of the Culture department last month and I have applied for the same," he said.