Pensioners covered by the Employees' Provident Fund went on fast on Wednesday demanding an increase in their pension proportionate to the rise in prices.

The pensioners who participated in the demonstration represented corporate houses and public sector undertaking companies including Crompton and Greaves, Buckingham and Carnatic Company, Lucas TVS, Wheels India, Food Corporation of India, Aavin, beedi manufacturing companies, Triplicane Urban Cooperative Society and Co-Optex.

While some beedi workers receive Rs.30 a month as pension since the time the EPF Pensioners Scheme was introduced by the Central government in 1995, even those with 30 to 35 years of service receive between Rs.100 and Rs.900 a month as pension. The maximum that a person can earn as pension has been fixed as Rs.1,900.

According to R. Sivaraman, vice-president of All India Pensioners' Welfare Association, about 20 crore people are covered under the scheme, if the dependants of the employees are taken into account. “When the pension scheme was mooted by the Narasimha Rao government, it was decided to revise the pension every 10 years. But that has not happened though two committees were set up. The first committee gave its report in 2005 to the then BJP government and the second committee constituted on 2008 submitted its report on August 5, last year to the UPA government but there has been no response yet,” he said. D. Pugazhendhi, general secretary of Madras Labour Union which represents B&C Mills' employees, said many retired employees who had served the company for several decades received very low pensions, leaving them at the mercy of their children during the twilight years.

A retired FCI employee P. Krishnaparamathma gets Rs.550 a month while B. Radhakrishnan, who retired from Wheels India, gets Rs.806. “We depend on the government's free rice scheme and do not have access to any medical facility despite having been employed in reputed companies for many years,” said V. Sekaran, who retired from B&C Mills.

The retirees said the government had arrived on a formula which did not take into consideration that the elderly employee had to fend for his/her partner too. “We want the government to raise the minimum pension to Rs.6000 and provide us free bus and train travel as our pensions are very low,” said S. Srinivasan, general secretary of the EPF Pensioners' Association. “We pay taxes for every consumer item and professional taxes were deducted from our salary but the government is hesitating to improve our lot,” he lamented.

Mr. Sivaraman said, “The EPF has a fund of Rs.1.30lakh crore, which is the money collected from the employees and the employers by the government. With almost four crore employees registered under the scheme since 2004, the government should consider our demand.”