Elderly people from all over the country have gathered at Jantar Mantar. We will try and bring you each of their stories in support of their demand for an old age pension.
On Alishan Bi’s face, you can see the lines that the harshness of life have sketched. At 60 years she has traveled with hope in her heart to Delhi, hope that someone will listen to her plight. For the 60 year old widow from Jalgaon, her ultimate dream is to get a pension of Rs 2000 per month.
Alishan Bi is a domestic help in a household in Jalgaon- she works the full day performing chores like sweeping, mopping, washing clothes and doing the dishes for a large household. She has been doing this for the last 40 years and admits that she is fond of her employers and they treat her well. She earns Rs 1600 per month and when there are emergencies like sickness her employees do help her with Rs 200 or 300. However, she confesses that her body is giving up and she cannot do this work for longer. And once she stops working, it is the end of any kind of economic security for her.
Alishan Bi’s husband was a painter and died 10 years ago- he worked on daily wages and besides leaving behind his wife, he also left behind 2 sons and a daughter now middle aged themselves with families to support. Her sons work on daily wages as handymen, one has four children and one 5. She and her unmarried daughter live with her younger son. Though her son is very good to her, his focus and resources are for his family. 3 square meals are a thing of luck- if there has been work maybe there will be breakfast, lunch and dinner else just a cup of tea will substitute one meal. The family she works for does give her one meal a day.
Alishan Bi is drawing a pension of Rs 600 per month currently- as she very eloquently puts it- ‘ Indira Gandhi is giving me a pension’. She says that she does get the pension every month but has to chase up at the office, and since she is illiterate, it is literally begging for her right every time.
Despite the worry on her face, she has a hope in her eye- a hope that she will get Rs 2000 per month and never have to work her old body in the cold again, a hope that once she gets Rs 2000 pension per month she does not have to be a burden on anyone when she stops working.