Australian Brahma Kumari lives off Welfare Payments in India

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ex-l

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Australian Brahma Kumari lives off Welfare Payments in India

Post02 Oct 2013

In a new development, an Australian Brahma Kumari adherent called Leon Ahern has successfully claimed Australia government social security welfare payments to live permanently in India at a Brahma Kumari centre.

BK Leon Ahern claims he is schizophrenic, and therefore unfit for work, yet is able to negotiate international air travel, international banking, living in a foreign country and making complex legal appeals. It is not know how much he pays the Brahma Kumaris to live at their centre which is being called an "ashram" or guesthouse.

The maximum rate of Disability Support Pension (DSP) for a single person is $751.70 Australian Dollars, equivalent to $700 US Dollars (43,800 Indian Rupees) per fortnight, in a country where the per capita income is $1219 per year.

Ahern began to receive disability benefits from 1992 and began to follow the Brahma Kumaris in India in 1993, often stay for more than a year. He claimed, as Brahma Kumari adherents are told to believe, that India was his spiritual home and that the Brahma Kumaris centre in Sydney was "no substitute for the higher spiritual advice he has access to in India".

That seems a bit of an insult to all the individuals who work to support it, are told to stay there by the BK leadership, and have to make do with it for their spiritual sustenance.

From a Brahma Kumari point of view, this appears to be yet another significant turn, or perhaps demise in its standards but one which the organisation will, no doubt, financially benefit from the Australia government's sponsorship as Ahern receives more money in one month that most Indians work one year to earn.

Strictly speaking, according to the old Maryadas or principles, Brahma Kumari centers were not allowed to accept followers with mental illness, followers were strongly discouraged from living off social welfare payments and they were instructed to stay in their country or city of origin in order to serve it. "Baba", their god, would make everything good.

Certain ethical questions arise including as to how much Ahern has been enculted into a sets of beliefs which the BKs then profit from.

Alternatively, if any Australians want a lifetime holiday in India, to hang out at an exotic BK center in order to "earn their inheritance in the Golden Age", and with the ability to live like a king off the Australia tax payer ... the door would appear to be open.

BK Leon Ahern had returned to Australia in 2007 to receive free medical treatment for a heart condition and blamed Centrelink for making him remaining in Australia for six years instead of allowing him to return to live in India where he is able to attend all day classes, fortnight long retreats at the cult's headquarters which he claimed made him "happier and more at peace".

Would we all?
Centrelink ordered to pay man Disability Support Pension while he lives in India

A tribunal has overruled Centrelink to allow a schizophrenic Australian to keep receiving the disability support pension at a spiritual retreat in India.

Leon Ahern appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which found "to him, India is home" - meaning he can live there at an ashram and collect the DSP indefinitely. He claimed to have managed his illness for the past 20 years through adherence to the teachings of Brahma Kumaris, which he says he follows seven days a week living in an ashram or a guesthouse.

Mr Ahern began receiving the DSP in 1992 and started following Brahma Kumaris in India a year later, often spending more than a year at a time there.

He was initially able to claim the DSP indefinitely while overseas however changed rules in 2004 meant if he returned to Australia as a permanent resident he would lose the DSP after 13 weeks overseas.

Mr Ahern returned to Australia in 2007, prompting Centrelink to deem him a permanent resident in Australia in 2010 preventing him claiming the DSP for long periods overseas. The Tribunal late last month rejected the classification, finding that despite spending the past six years in Australia he was not a permanent resident.

It found he had no family ties, was itinerant, living in hostels and on walking trails and visiting a Brahma Kumaris centre in Sydney. The Sydney centre was "no substitute for the higher spiritual advice he has access to in India," he told the Tribunal. "India is where he wants to be. He said he is able to attend all day classes and fortnight long retreats at the ashram in India," the Tribunal found.

"He said this gives him more control and makes him happier and more at peace. 'India is home,' he said.

"I consider that, in Mr Ahern's case, there is evidence of both his clear and persistent intention to return to India and the absence of ties to Australia. In Australia he is itinerant and isolated. In India he lives in a settled manner, always at the same guesthouse whose owner he knows, and connected to the people at the ashram he attends. To him, India is home."

The Tribunal even heard Centrelink was partly to blame for him remaining in Australia for six years after he originally returned for treatment of a heart condition.

"Circumstances, including the decision made by the Secretary (of the Department of Community Services), have forced Mr Ahern to remain in Australia for these past six years. He has remained itinerant for all of that time, preserving his intention to return to India and his alienation from the usual indicia of residence in Australia. I consider that Mr Ahern is not residing in Australia. It follows that he remains entitled to indefinite portability of his disability support pension."

A spokesman for Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews said he would request a briefing from his department.

Centrelink is part of the Australian Department of Human Services and disburses social security payments.
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Re: Australian Brahma Kumari lives off Welfare Payments in I

Post02 Oct 2013

Two things.

1. The figure "$751.70 Australian Dollars, equivalent to $700 US Dollars " is a fortnightly payment, not weekly.

It is still a fortune by Indian standards, even at half the price! Ironically, in Australia we have just had a big media splash over the last few days about Indian child labour exploitation, 10 year olds and younger working 12-16hr days sewing footballs for $1 per day. There is now a boycott happening, with major retailers ceasing stocking that brand (...but our newly elected conservative government is considering banning targeted consumer boycotts!)

I hope Leon is not stingy with paying his way (and I hope he is not be taken advantage of).

2. It is probably cheaper for the department to pay him and let him live in India than have him move back here (which he might have done if he lost) because, here, he would likely be entitled to even more government support over and above his disability pension, by way of govt funded health care, therapy, subsidised medications, rental assistance (few people on a pension can afford market rent and can claim an extra allowance) and other likely costs to the taxpayer over time.

So, in dollar terms, its a win-win-win - for Leon, for the Indian BKs and local merchants, and for the Australian government (if he had been forced to move back to Oz).

But it is still a moral conundrum whether such a level of support fro a non-resident is actually right or not.

This may lead to review of regulations and international agreements because one area of huge government burden is reciprocal social security arrangements with other countries and Indians are now the fastest growing group of migrants here. In the past, many post-war immigrants returned to Italy, Greece etc and claimed Australian pensions, sometimes also entitled to other support where they lived too. I don't know that there's any reciprocity with India. That is, would Australians get Indian government support, given they don't have such schemes even for their own people?
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Re: Australian Brahma Kumari lives off Welfare Payments in I

Post02 Oct 2013

I would agree with welfare payments being made ... if they were paid at local, i.e. Indian rates but, overall, I'd say he was just a chancer, big time.

I wonder how much help the Sydney BKs gave him to get away with it?

I am sort of surprised that the BKs are going along with it ... but then the flood gates appear to be open to any kind of cr*p these days and I dare say they get some baksheesh, and a bit of cleaning or gardening out of him.

For that sort of money, he could have a young Kumari sevadhari assigned to him full-time.
    Do you think if I signed on welfare the BKs would give me a roof over my head, 3 meals a day, an internet connect, and a young Kumari?

    Probably, yes, as long as I promised no internet ...
I feel like an old man, "Ah, when I was a young BK, we'd never be allowed to do the likes of that ...!" Living off welfare benefits even to do service was frowned upon.

If one can do it, why not all?

I would not be surprised if this causes a little bit of a crisis in Australia because if word gets out, half of Australia's unemployed and slackers will be packing off to Asia to live like a lord in a house with a housekeeper.

Bad reputation for the BKs too.
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Re: Australian Brahma Kumari lives off Welfare Payments in I

Post03 Oct 2013

One thing not clear - Is he living in the BK centre/ashram or is he renting outside? Where? Abu?

I'll agree with a nostalgic ex-BK like you, who grew up in "the good old days" of unequivocal Sri Mat, cold war, and longer Murlis that there's a debate to be had about living on welfare payments - especially for BKs who understand karma philosophy as a kind of point-scoring 'for and against'.

Most people do accept that welfare paid temporarily, between jobs for example, is beneficial and a wise use of some of our taxes as it prevents poverty, crime, etc (hence "social security") and assists people in finding new employment but most would not accept making staying on welfare one's profession!

And health support payment is similar to unemployment benefits - eg temporary sickness benefits which give support for short or medium term periods where one is sick or injured is not unlike temporary unemployment benefits.

In Australia, they will shift you from sickness support onto a permanent disability pension if there is no prospect of full recovery. Chronically mentally ill people fall into this category. That does not mean you are not allowed or not expected to work at all. You can take on whatever casual employment you are able to and people are encouraged to - and declare that income. Small earnings do not affect your pension, but after certain levels are reached, your payments are reduced on a sliding scale.

The department does not however "chase" the mentally ill the way they might investigate someone pretending to have a back injury.

I am of two minds on this one ex-l. It is very hard to make ends meet on welfare payments here. All the welfare advocates and economists say that based on our costs of living, rent, energy etc, those on welfare sit on or below the poverty line - a political balancing act between not letting people starve and not discouraging their return to work. (Judging who is genuinely unable to work, or unable to find work, is of course the crux of any such debate).

So for someone on a mental illness disability pension who would have difficulty managing a tight budget, it would be very stressful and we already have many homeless people with mental illness who cannot afford to keep an apartment or pay bills. Living in a less expensive environment would relieve that pressure.

E.G. out of $750 / fortnight, it'd be difficult in a large capital city here to find rent under $500 per fortnight, electricity has risen about 50% in three years and you need to be a canny shopper & cook to feed yourself in a healthy way log term for under $100 a week - and almost by definition most mental illnesses preclude these qualities. They could of course move to a country town where rent is cheap, but there are issues of loneliness and lack of support networks and services.

* I have a relative on disability pension for mental illness, he used to work sometimes but nowadays cannot maintain any focus for any period of time. He is fortunate to have a sympathetic landlord, a practising Christian, who gives him attention, gives him small easy tasks to do around the property and takes him shopping etc. I know another person who is on disability pension for a chronic back injury incurred in an accident 30 years ago, who works when he can and declares his income honestly. I know someone with a recent back injury on (regularly reviewed) sickness support who can only work part-time, and does, declaring income.

There are obviously those who blatantly stay on benefits when they could support themselves. there are however bigger parasites, like a wealthy businesswoman here who was recently discovered to have government-provided low-cost apartments in four state capitals that she did business in using different names, or the super-profitable multinational corporations like Google and Apple etc who pay little or no tax to any nation. There's subsidised fossil fuel industries and so on. Local recent debate is on whether churches and charities should pay council rates for the services they use from the moneys they receive as councils are also not-for-profit ...

Our gaols are full of mentally ill people who've committed repeated petty crimes.

What I am saying is, maybe on balance and on the micro level, the 'wrongness' is outweighed by the benefit to the individual, the local businesses etc while on the macro level, this can be seen as redistribution of wealth from richer countries to poorer countries through indirect means?! (Speaking of "mean", our new conservative govt announced a slashing of the foreign aid budget - so this is a clumsy way to counter that).

50 shades of black and white? Maybe if we all just remembered Baba all dilemmas would disappear?
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Re: Australian Brahma Kumari lives off Welfare Payments in I

Post03 Oct 2013

Pink Panther wrote:... Maybe if we all just remembered Baba all dilemmas would disappear?

Yes, you've got it ... "Remember Baba ... don't think, don't question ... everyone is an effortmaker, numberwise" ... and as long as the donations keep rolling in ... everything will be OK.

Yes, there are two discussions here; one, Australia's benefit system and, the other, the Brahma Kumaris malleable code and ethics ... the lesson of which to any would be adherent is, "Do what the hell you want and like and get away with it. Don't listen to the old crones and allow them to tell you how to live your life ... because is 6 months or 10 years time, "God's Instruments" will be doing or allowing precisely what you were going to do". Especially where money is involved.

I always boil it down to money with these people first. From their culture, I've come to realise money is far more of a bottomline than I ever realised when I was in. Even in the very beginning, Lekhraj Kirpalani was sucking in other families' money. It was not all afforded off his own back.

And if the Brahma Kumaris in India are sucking in benefit money from the Australian Government ... why that is only being "Unlimited Chancellors" and giving the Australia Government the chance to earn its fortune in the next cycle of time.

I wonder if they are still going to look after him when he can no longer get out of bed and needs his bottom wiped, or whether at that point he will be discarded and go back to Australia for old age care? For $750 per fortnight, they might arrange it, employ some Shudra for $10 a week and pocket the rest. Only time will tell.

Sure, as a growth industry and overseas aid it would be a great idea if the developed nations were to ship its poor and unwanted overseas where it is cheaper to look after them. One airfare and a few dollars a week, they could save millions (... but is not that how Australia started? Financially, it's a sterling idea but it might not go down too well with the politically correct).


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