“Requesting your support and reminding you about your promise to Pension Parishad to increase and universalize Pension for the elderly.” – that was the message 50-year-old manual labourer Ramasundaram, signed on a post card.
He was among 200 others from the unorganised sector who launched a post card campaign demanding universalisation of pension for the elderly.
Says Vijayarani, “We are needy and marginalised but we contributed our might for the country’s development. Now, we are old, we want the Government to share our burden and protect us.” Dr. Jayalakshmi Honorary Judge, Juvenile Justice Board, says awareness is being created about saving tigers, trees, water. “It is equally important to save elders from dying due to poverty and starvation.” In India the unorganized sector, which covers 94 percentage of the work force, is not covered under the pension scheme. The central government guarantees Rs. 300 only to families identified as living under the Below Poverty Line.
Nirmala of Vaigai Vattara Podhu Tholilaalar Sangam said the campaign has been launched to garner support from the public and creating awareness on the importance of pension. Barathi Kannama, a transgender, said, “transgender community in Tamil Nadu is receiving Rs.1,000 as monthly pension which has been a great support for the elderly members of the community but living in other States do not receive pension. The provision of pension is as important as other social entitlements like ration cards and voter ID cards for people like us. It is our right.”
The Pension Parishad movement recommends the Government should set up a universal and non-contributory old age pension system with a minimum monthly pension of not less than 50 percentage of the minimum wage or Rs.2,000 per month, whichever is higher. Besides, any individual who is 55 years or older should be eligible for old age pension and for women the eligibility should be 50 years. The eligibility age should be 45 years for vulnerable groups - tribal groups, transgender and women who have been compelled to become sex workers. There is a demand for a single window system too to look into the issues concerning the elderly.
The Pension Parishad movement started in Pune last March when marginalized groups came together to demand universalization of pension. In May 2012, under the leadership of Aruna Roy and Baba Adhav more than 5,000 people, including a large number of senior citizens gathered in Delhi, at Jantar Mantar, where political leaders, central Ministers and representatives of various parties, retired officials, economists and judges extended their support to the movement.