The competing demands of social assistance and fiscal prudence have led Pension Parishad members to urge the Prime Minister to meet 100 elderly people sitting on indefinite dharna from different States and respond to their concerns.
Last month, the Finance Ministry’s proposal to slash budgetary support for social sector schemes managed by the Ministry of Rural Development by nearly Rs.15,000 crore has provoked sharp resistance members and supporters of the Pension Parishad.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Pension Parishad has reiterated that the Rs. 200 per month targeted pension is forcing senior citizens to live in penury and destitution is an unacceptable violation of fundamental rights, and their agitation will continue.
“We cannot allow the central government to decide on its own that money for critical items of public spending for the people will not be made available. If adequate revenues have not been raised, the government must answer for it and explain why measures to improve the situation have not been taken,” said leading economist Jayati Ghosh.
The agitators under the aegis of Pension Parishad raised a call to scrap the difference between APL and BPL citizens and offer pension as a universal right to living, among other demands.
Ms.Ghosh asserted that if the failure to honor the assurance was being attributed to a lack of financial resources, then it is imperative to state that citizens of India are being told that the central government does not have the money to fulfill its commitments to the people and that even important expenditure on health, sanitation, education and other public services will be cut in the last quarter of the fiscal year.
“If the government decides on its own to cut expenditure — and if this includes the spending that should be considered as essential for the social and economic rights of the people — it amounts to bypassing the Parliament and actually defying both democracy and the Constitution,” she added.
Nikhil Dey, member of Pension Parishad, said that they were going to speak to various political parties. Additionally, he suggested that ‘unspent balances’ or savings of the Ministry of Rural Development should be transferred and used for pensions.
“We don’t need a Bill we need a presence in the revised estimates. This is the best form of direct benefit transfer,” he added.