The five day dharna organized by the Pension Parishad was launched on Sunday at Jantar Mantar in Delhi with a battery of eminent and senior citizens cutting across different streams from political parties, legal luminaries, academicians, social reformers and activists.
They included Justice Sacchar, Shri. Kuldeep Nayyar, D,Raja, CPI, Shri B. Mungekar, M.P, Rajya Sabha, Shri Ramchandra Kundaliya, M.P. Rajya Sabha, Smt. Mohini Giri, Guild of Services and Smt Annie Raja, NFIW, Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Economist, JNU.
Launching the Pension Parishad the key Conveners of the Campaign, Ms. Aruna Roy and Baba Adhav said that given the fact that so many representatives of marginalised communities from Kerala in the south to Punjab in the North, Gujarat in the West to Bengal in the East and Assam and Meghalaya in the North East are present here reveals the enormous ground swell for universal pension scheme; a demand which no political party can afford to ignore.
Shri. D Raja, leader of the Communist Party of India, responded to the appeal by assuring the participants that his party “will raise this issue during the course of this session inside and outside Parliament and they are confident that this is not only the issue of CPI but will get the support of all parliamentarians cutting across party lines.”
Smt. Mohini Giri, Chairperson, Guild of Service spoke of the “Urgent need for mandating a single window delivery system where all vulnerable people can avail of pensions, medical facilities and other services with dignity and as a right.”
The participants included the elderly, dalits, tribal, marginal farmers, domestic workers, single women, the disabled, sex workers, transgender and people living with HIV. Most of them voiced extreme despair and felt excluded from all entitlements and services even as they struggling to hold their lives together.
Dr. R.A. Mungekar, Rajya Sabha MP, said that in response to an unstarred question by him, the Ministry of Labour & Employment had not specified about how much money was being spent on the pension schemes for unorganised workers. Therefore he was determined to support the struggle of Pension Parishad till the demand was met.
Shri. Kuldeep Nayar a highly respected journalist and human rights activist reminded the participants that all struggles are difficult and it is only the determination of communities that makes it a success and this is evident even today. “You have overcome 50 percent of the struggle with your concerted presence and your resolve to stay here for the next five days and fight for your demand,” he emphasized.
Justice Sachhar said that everydescription needs a pension and is a basic right of every citizen. In fact the Nitish Sen Gupta Committee, on Unorganized Workers had categorically stated that 70 percent people live below the poverty line. “Given this grinding poverty it is obligatory on the part of the government to meet the demand of universal pension of Rs. 2000 and all the community groups that are present here should hold the government accountable for providing this basic social security for the poor and vulnerable” he stated.