India: Sewing machines given to '100-year-old' women

Hands of an Indian woman using a sewing machine

A government agency in India has released information showing that it has been giving sewing machines and bicycles to women registered as being as old as 532, it's been reported.

The Labour Department in the central state of Chhattisgarh acknowledges that records for thousands of women list them as being more than 100 years old - but have no address associated with them. "The list of beneficiaries includes 6,189 women who were shown aged 114 years," reports the Times of India newspaper.

"Besides these, the list has six women showing age 202 years, three showing aged 212 years, two showing aged 282 years," it adds. "Age of one woman was mentioned as 532 years." The paper is calling for an investigation into a possible scam involving benefit schemes that have cost the state a total of 400m rupees (£4m, $6.6m).

The data, which were released after activist Sanjeev Aggarwal submitted a Right to Information (RTI) request, also says women as old as 212 received free bicycles from the state. Aggarwal thinks the discrepancies could be just the "tip of the iceberg", since his request only asked for information about the state capital of Raipur. Chhattisgarh's deputy labour commissioner, Savita Mishra, says the errors were caused by a software glitch. But an inquiry is under way, she says, and "whosoever is found guilty would not be spared".

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