When: February 26 and 27, 2015
Where: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Attended by: Several constituent groups of the Pension Parishad from across states
Agenda: To chart out the future course of the campaign to make universal state pension scheme a reality
Following are the broad issues that were discussed at the convention:
- State of implementation of various pension schemes in different states and emerging concerns
- Broader structure of the Parishad
- Initiatives to strengthen state units of the Parishad – Ways to integrate more groups, organisations and people’s movements with the Parishad’s cause
- Time frames to finalise convenors of state units, plan meetings and chart out issues and demands at the state-level
- Rally at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, during the Parliament session to voice demands of the Parishad
The two-day meeting was followed by a press conference which was addressed by:
- Aruna Roy, national convenor of the Pension Parishad and co-founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatana
- Baba Adhav, national convenor of the Pension Parishad and founder of the Maharashtra Rajya Hamal and Mapadi Mahamandal
- Nikhil Dey, convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and co-founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatana
- Prof. R Ramakumar, professor at the centre for developing economies, school of development studies, TISS
- Dr. Prashant Kumar, Delhi-based economist
- Manjira Khurana, country head, HelpAge India – Workers’ representatives of sex workers, waste pickers, domestic workers and transgenders
Press coverage of the event:
1. The Hindu, February 28, 2015
2. Maharashtra Times, February 28, 2015
3. The Statesman, New Delhi, February 27, 2015
4. Daily News and Analysis, Mumbai, February 27, 2015
5. Business Standard (IANS), February 27, 2015
Detailed minutes of the convention
Day 1 – 26th February 2015
In the very beginning of the session Mr. Nikhil welcomed all the members who were participating in the Pension Parishad meeting and he introduced all the state members representing different groups. The session then began with a nice song which was presented by the Pension Parishad team.
Presentation on the Findings of TISS-Pension Pension Study conducted in May-June 2014:-
This study conducted by the interns along with the help of partner NGO groups active in different states took place in 8 states namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Rajasthan, Telangana and West Bengal. The study tried to capture the ground realities of the functioning of pension schemes under National Social Assistance programme by capturing the views of the current beneficiaries, the potential beneficiaries and of the concerned officials. The study found out that there were leakages in the pension process, people were not getting regular/full pensions, BPL/APL categorisation has many loopholes, most vulnerable groups are left out many times, the pension amount (200rs) was too low at some places, cases of petty corruptions were found etc. The study also brought out some good practices from different states.
Session of Discussion:-
1) By Shreya (Telengana), She requested to include the transgender Section in future pension studies.
2) By Nikihil (Pension Parishad), He said that National Studies’ data should be presented in states and other platforms as well.
3) By Baba Adhav, when the interns conduct this study what was the response of the government officials..?
Answer: – The government officials were supportive & helpful in some places but the responses they provided did not match ground realities in most cases.
4) By Manjira Khurana, How many people are getting complete amount of pension?
Answer: – A majority did not get the pension regularly or the full amount. There were many instances of leakages and corruption in delivery.
Presentation by Prof. Sivaraju:-
Issue: – The recent UNFPA study conducted by him on the elderly in India
Magnitude of the problem in India:-
Question: - What is the use of the Geriatric Centre for the elderly..?
Answer: – Geriatric Centre will cover physical problem of the elderly, help in raising awareness, barefoot technicians and family members may get trained and be accredited for the skills learnt through a course in TISS which will also help them earn.
Prof. Sivaraju shared that he was the member of a Task Force for the Elderly in Mauritius and the country had a great elderly policy which we should try and develop too. These include:
A word by Manjira - HelpAge India released a report on the Status of Elderly in 2014 in which we find that 50% elderly in the BPL category are not getting any benefits. On the other hand 50% elderly are victims of various kinds of the abuse.
She also stressed on the need to focus on the destitute elderly.
Comment – Maybe a study should be conducted on pensions for persons living with HIV.
Comment – Persons with mental illnesses should also be given pensions. We should include the demand in our agenda.
A signature campaign should be organised, she shared a brief history of how the Pension Parishad campaign was formed – with the first regional meetings in February 2012 in Pune and Rajasthan a third larger one organised in TISS, Mumbai later that year. She stressed that this campaign was largely for unorganised sector labourers and the poor of the country.
Prof Ram Kumar, TISS:-
The Govt always claims that it doesn’t have money to increase allocations/coverage. However there are ways to raise resources if there is political will. For e.g. By increasing the gold tax, liquor tax in Maharashtra.
He insisted that the pension application procedure should be fair, easy and transparent. It shouldn’t involve much expenditure and hassle as that can be a dissuading factor in accessing benefits of pension schemes.
Every community deserving pensions have different priorities, so we need to identify the actual needs of each group through sustained dialogue and allied action and engage in advocacy accordingly.
Sensitising banks and reorganising financial institutions is important for ensuring smooth delivery.
He presented some data which showed that there are 1crore 10 lakh people in need of pensions and only 24lakh are getting pensions, that too on paper. Almost 50% people above 60 year of age are dependent. Much work needs to be done and soon, before things get out of hand. The disability rights groups should also be involved and all should be more vocal on the issue.
Sharing of ground realities on pensions, state-wise:
Questions raised – A) Situation of pension..? B) Efforts made for pension till now..? c) Suggestions if any..?
Gujarat by Ms. Patel:-
Low coverage, especially those of urban poor.
The main fight is about the annual household income cap criteria which is too low. The homeless are another major group of concern.
Andhra Pradesh seemed to be better off with universal pensions of Rs 1000 per month and end-to-end computerisation but technology has its pitfalls too as has been seen there. Delays in payments are also commonplace as pensions are politically motivated.
Mr. Ramlingam spoke about the pension status of Pondicherry. The age criteria of getting pension is 55 Years for those who are male and female identified and for transgenders (hijras) it is 40 years. An income certificate is required among other things and the mode of payment is through post office.
In Karnataka, pension delivery happens mostly through NGO Interventions. The movement is strong there. However there should be an accurate and accessible process to identify the physically disabled and mentally challenged.
Kerala has state pensions for various groups although identification and distribution remains a challenge. Universalisation is the big demand there.
Lack of awareness, MP-MLA quota system, different amounts being given by Municipal Corporation and state govt for the same categories of beneficiaries are some of the major challenges but the movement is strong there and the drive at present is towards providing identity documentation for all.
Day 2 – 27TH February 2015
On Structure & Function:-
It was clarified that Trade Unions can be a member of Pension Parishad
One state level meeting/ action should be planned in states before 1st May 2015 to nominate representatives for an Ad-hoc National Committee to be constituted for overseeing the campaign.
Janani/ Sohini will try and attend if the information can be shared beforehand. If not, kindly document and share so that the Pension Parishad fb page and website maybe updated regularly.
Demonstration in Delhi between 21st to 23rd April 2015 by about 500 people from across states on pensions and the proposed Budget cuts.
Encourage young people to join the cause, intern/volunteer. Have institutes like TISS to conduct more action research on the issue
There should be a group of the elderly representatives and younger members within each sangathan who are the part of this network.
Mr. Prashant Prakash also gave us a very useful budget analysis of pensions at the Centre.
Prof. Parasuraman, Director TISS also promised support and laid out certain plans on the issue for the next two years.
Press Conference and closing statements:
Manjira Khurana: - Help Age India released a State of the Elderly Report, which shows data on the pathetic conditions in which the elderly in India are living today. We have to lobby with the Govt to get at least 4% of our GDP for this entire chunk of the population.
Ms Aruna Roy: – In rural areas and urban there are many from the labour classes and oppressed castes, struggling to make ends meet. However the Govt seems to be only concerned about appeasing those who are already self-sufficient. Why can’t we come together and claim our share in this democracy?
Baba Adhav: – Until the Govt relents we will keep looking for creative collaborative ways to protest. We need to keep expanding the scope of this campaign. He stressed on the need to give structure to our campaign and build alliances. The elderly deserve a life of dignity and he said he was committed to fight for the cause.
By Gyarsibai :- When I was the sarpanch of my village, I did lots of work for the people and always sought out the voices of the poorest, so the local government has a lot within its power to do. However the block, district, state and central govt also have to fulfill their roles for the system to run smoothly and until they don’t, we will keep on making our demands.