Press Release: 5th December

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Press Release

Pension Parishad urges Prime Minister to meet 100 elderly people sitting on indefinite dharna at Jantar Mantar to take forward the assurances given by Shri Jairam Ramesh

New Delhi, 5 Dec 13: While taking forward the assurances given by Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development, to the Pension Parishad as far back as 7th March, 2013, to revamp existing Old Age, Widow and Disabled pensions by expanding the coverage of these pensions to include elderly people, widows from the age of 18 and single women from the age of 40 and to those with 40% and above disability, Pension Parishad members have urged the Prime Minister to meet 100 elderly persons from different states who are coming together in the capital and respond to their concerns.

Leading economist, Ms. Jayati Ghosh said 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. Budgets must be passed by Parliament, because the Constitution mandates democratic oversight of the raising of resources and spending by government. 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 Parliament and actually defying both democracy and the Constitution.

Ms. Ghosh added, “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. The decision on what expenditure will be cut must be an open, transparent process that is also known to the people.”

Speaking about the urgency on the issue, Nikhil Dey, social activist associated with Pension Parishad, made it clear that most of the 500 elderly at Jantar Mantar have no option but to continue their dharna indefinitely so that their just demand are heard loudly and clearly and become a rallying point for all political parties to go beyond their customary rhetoric about being a die-hard supporter of the age old Indian tradition of being respectful to the elderly and spell out clearly in their Manifestoes what they will strive to do

On 7th March 2013, Shri Jairam Ramesh addressed over 7000 elderly persons who had assembled at Parliament Street and assured them that in the next few weeks the Ministry would `roll out the revamped pension scheme. Realizing that this decision lies with the Prime Minister and Financial Minister, Shri Ramesh prepared a Note for the Cabinet recommending the immediate overhaul of the existing scheme. It is significant that the Note recommends universalisation of social security pensions (with exclusions) at Rs 500/- per month to begin with.(The assurance is enclose). They have not met the assurance till now.

Similarly, Dalit and Adivasi groups across the country, who have been campaigning for this Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and Tribal Sub Plan (SCP/TSP) for several years have been working tirelessly to build pressure on the UPA Government to ensure that the Central legislation is introduced in the winter session of Parliament.

Bitoli from Sitapur, U.P., said that she was not getting a pension because she refused to “succumb to the pressure of intermediaries and middlemen”. She went on to say that because of the targeted pension scheme, the government was leaving poor communities at the mercy of middlemen and intermediaries who go to the extent of demanding a whole year’s pension as bribe money for a pension that is their right and due.

Hiirabai Bhujang, from Maharashtra, said that she had been running from pillar to post for one year to get her pension. “No one is telling us clearly what documents we should submit to get the pension. And once we submit it there is nobody to tell us about the fate of our application,” she added

Keshar, 69 from Ajmer, who has neither a ration card nor a pension said that she, her aged husband and disabled son were surviving on the money she earned from doing small jobs.

The Pension Parishad has in its letter to the Prime Minister made it clear that the Rs 200/- per month targeted pension forcing senior citizens to live in penury and destitution is an unacceptable violation of fundamental rights, and the agitation will continue.

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For more information please contact:

Padmini, 9810482967 and Farah, 9560511667

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