Pitiable amount of Rs 200 a month as pension, that too, to only one crore out of the total 10 crore poor senior citizens, goes against rights guaranteed in the constitution, say social activists
GN Bureau | May 5, 2016
Pained by the government's apathy towards revising decades old monthly pension of Rs 200, 125 elderly citizens associated with Pension Parishad will be sending a day's pension, Rs 7, to prime minister Narendra Modi – protesting against the priorities of his government. The parishad was founded in 2012 to fight for the rights of the elderly.
"As the parliamentarians discuss about doubling their monthly salary, we hope that the contribution of a day’s pension by the poor elderly will shame the government and the lawmakers, forcing them to think of the plight of the pensioners," said 80-year old Baba Adhav of the parishad, at a conference held in New Delhi.
It is interesting to note that under Indira Gandhi national old age pension scheme, the pension amount of Rs 200 for elderly between 60 and 69 and Rs 300 for elderly between 70 and 79 has not been revised since 2007. The scheme, moreover, covers only one crore senior citizens, although, say social activists citing 2011 census data, the actual number of elderly, with no or low income, is around 10 crore. It means that close to 9 crore senior citizens do not get any pension.
The parishad demanded that the government should provide a dignified amount, of Rs 2,000, or half of the minimum wage, to all 10 crore elderly populace.
Taking a jibe at the government, social Activist Aruna Roy said, "Given the government's resolve to provide enhanced resources to hike the salaries and pensions of parliamentarians and officials, this contribution from the poor may go a long way in supporting the PM in realising his priorities."
HelpAge India CEO Mathew Cherian, who has been appointed as amicus curiae to look into the plight of poor elderly by the CJI Justice TS Thakur, said, "We will be witnessing a humanitarian crisis of huge proportion , if the government didn't wake up to the unacceptable levels of distress that elderly people are experiencing and demonstrate both political and administrative will to [ensure] both universal old age pension and health insurance for all."
Cherian will submit his report to the SC in June. He said that the indifference of the government goes against Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) and Article 41 (right to public assistance) of the constitution.
Seven to eight states have increased the pension amount. Goa provides Rs 2,000. Haryana and Delhi provide Rs 1,500.
The parishad has repeatedly highlighted the plight of senior citizens and now senior citizens from across 11 states have come to Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to stage their protest. This was the 16th parliamentary session when we have staged a protest but the governments are yet to take cognizance, said Dey. “We will continue to protest during every session of the parliament till our demands are taken seriously by the government,” he said.
The activists also raised concerns related to the government’s drive to make Aadhaar biometric authentication mandatory for social welfare schemes, including pensions. The fingerprints of the elderly people, especially those coming from the working class, the unorganised sector, get blurred and hence Aadhaar based disbursal poses a great risk of exclusion, said activist Usha Ramanathan, who was present during the press meet.
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