Nearly 200 people of the elderly and marginalized communities from 18 states including Jharkhand, Ladakh and Chattisgarh participated in a “Jan Sunwai” (public hearing) on Friday organized by the Pension Parishad to address destitution among the elderly.
The Jury included Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator, Member Secretary, National Legal Services Authority, Dr. Prabhat Patnaik, Wajahat Habibullah, former Information Commissioner, and social activist Aruna Roy.
The key demand voiced by the social activists was that the Government remains duty bound to implement the recommendations of the Mihir Shah Task Force Committee on the Comprehensive National Social Assistance Programme (Pension). The recommendations of the Task Force included an increase in central assistance under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme with effect from financial year 2013-14 and revise eligibility norms for the Widow Pension scheme by reducing minimum age from 40 years to 18 years.
Dr. Mihir Shah, Member of the Planning Commission, stated that the Task Force Committee had made basic and minimal recommendations to the Government and even this was done keeping in view the complete support for these changes from the Cabinet as a whole.
Ms. Aruna Roy pointed out that “despite having reservations about some of the recommendations of the Task Force Committee we feel that this is the very least that the government can do considering the fact that the recommendations emerged from a government constituted Committee.”
The spirit of the Public Hearing was captured by the determination demonstrated by Mohammed Iqbal from an organization working on disability, People’s Action Group for Inclusion and Rights. Suffering from acute locomotor disability, Mr. Iqbal has come to Delhi from Ladakh with the “hope that all the tireless procedures such as income certificate, proof of BPL status and other documents that disabled, elderly and the poor have to furnish to get the paltry pension of Rs. 200 to Rs. 400 should be done away with immediate effect so that the elderly and poor get what is due to them.”