The 25-day strike led by activists Aruna Roy, Baba Adhav and Nikhil Dey ended on Friday as the protestors reiterating their demand to revamp the old-age, widow and disabled pension scheme. Ms. Roy and Mr. Adhav have written to the Prime Minister expressing their disappointment with the government’s lack of intervention and communication
This is the sixth consecutive session of Parliament during which the dharna was held in the national capital.
“We write this letter to you with a sense of betrayal. After initial promises, the elderly waited patiently for a gesture and an assurance that we would deserve at least a hearing. The establishment turns its face on the elderly and destitute. Nothing could have been more insensitive, uncaring, and callous,” state the letter.
The most critical thrust of Pension Parishad’s campaign is the demand that the pension be universal, especially for women because of their high level of dependency on it for daily sustenance. The sum should be either Rs. 2,000 or half the price of the minimum wages, whichever is higher. Currently, the Centre provides a pension of Rs.200 a month to those who are in the Below Poverty Line category. This would entail an expenditure of Rs.2.31 lakh crore.
Members of Pension Parishad have reached out to various political parties and senior government officials including Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Pulok Chatterji, Union Minister Sharad Pawar and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
“The government had given us a commitment but they need to explain the status and situation. We have been in dialogue for nearly two years. However, we will be back,” Nikhil Dey told The Hindu.
“For the last 25 days, several hundred people have braved the cold and made every possible effort to meet responsible people from government to demand a measure of dignity. We wonder what place you would give the elderly in a country rearing for growth. Have you thought of the unimaginable suffering of the elderly poor in the country?” says the letter.
Ms. Roy questioned the government’s approach asking if there were businessmen instead sitting on protest whether the government would take so long to respond.
“If growth alone matters, and the rich must get richer, let us know so that we will make our future plans knowing that the promised human face is an opportunist mask,” the letter adds.