On the occasion of Ambedkar’s Diwas, 100 elderly citizens, including eminent social activist Aruna Roy, were detained for protesting outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official residence here while demanding restructuring of the pension scheme. All were taken to the Parliament Street police station.
The elderly citizens under the banner of Pension Parishad gathered outside the PM's residence demanding the government restructure the existing pension scheme so they can live a life without extreme poverty.
“We are all here to speak to and meet Dr. Manmohan Singh both in his capacity as Prime Minister as well as a senior citizen because we are completely overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem and the untold miseries and indignities the elderly people are experiencing,” said Ms. Roy.
Ms. Roy reiterated that no society or government can claim to be just and fair, if it neglects and ignore the elderly.
"We have met Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and other leaders. We decided to gather before the PM's House to put forward our demand because despite their assurances, nothing concrete happened," she added.
In their letter to the prime minister, Pension Parishad stated that the targeted pension of Rs.200 per month, which forces senior citizens to live in penury and destitution, is an unacceptable violation of fundamental rights, and their agitation will continue.
Members of the Pension Parishad held placards capturing the famous words of Dr. Ambedkar: in politics we … recognise the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. The elderly people from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka shouted slogans asking the Prime Minister “ Please tell us how are we to live on Rs. 200 a month?”
Baba Adhav, activist and economist, said this campaign for claiming the right of pensions for the poor is a fight for basic social justice and against exploitation.
“Having collected over 25,000 signatures endorsing the Pension Petition, I am going to hand it over to the Prime Minister in person on this Special Day to remind the government of their commitment to the elderly,” he said.
India is home to nearly 10.38 crore elderly (aged 60 and above) out of which nearly 93 per cent (9.65 crore) elderly are estimated to be from the unorganized sector and 7 per cent (72 lakh) from the organized sector.
In 2011-12, the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme covered only 2.13 crore elderly, thereby including 22 per cent of the elderly from the unorganized sector.