While the Budget Session of Parliament is going on, a large number of rural and urban workers from the unorganised sector, including elderly women and men, farmers, labourers, domestic workers, waste-pickers are expected to come together at Jantar Mantar here today (Monday) for a four-day protest.

With the slogan of “APL-BPL khatam karo, sabko ration, pension do” and “Give work to every hand, give full pay for all work, give rest in old age”, they want to raise their main demands of doing away with the official distinction of Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (PBL), ration and universal pension.

The protest would be a part of series of peoples’ campaigns since May 2012, where senior citizens and marginal communities have assembled at Jantar Mantar during every Parliament session---monsoon, winter and now budget--- in order to emphasize that Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, secured urban employment and livelihoods, and pension for the elderly have to go together to ensure the dignity and survival of the 94 per cent workforce in the unorganised sector.

In their appeal for universal pension, activists Aruna Roy and Baba Adhav, highlighted the irony faced by workers when they turn old. “Workers have given the best years of their lives to build our homes, till and grow grains and vegetables, lay roads, deliver every kind of backbreaking work and manual services that has made our lives possible inside and outside our homes. Yet in old age they face insecurity, hunger and hopelessness and face a life a cycle of dependence and misery.”

Speaking about the unbearable plight of the elderly in drought hit districts like Latur in Maharashtra, Baba Adhav highlighted the extent of distress faced by older women. “I met 84-year-old Mudrika Savai who still works in the grocery market collecting grains that spill during loading and unloading. While offering a glass of water she asked me if she would get pension before she dies.”

The five-day dharna will dedicate parts of each day to rural and urban employment, food security, pensions and social security, governance and grievance redress. On 4 March--day one--the emphasis will be on social sector budget analysis of Budget 2013.

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