NEW DELHI: A large number of elderly people and those with disabilities from across the country protested here on Sunday in support of their demands and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of failing to secure their right to pension.
Converging on Parliament Street, the protesters, mostly labourers and single women, demanded that the central government raise their pension to Rs 3,000 per month and also do away with biometric verification.
The protesters hailed from Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Lallooji Gangaji, aged 67, said he had made repeated trips to officers concerned for pension in Rajasthan. "Why have I come to Delhi, standing in this scorching heat? Because I am unable to work now and my sons have abandoned me. I receive only Rs 500 as pension every month and the Centre should increase it to Rs 3,000."
Naresh Chandra Saxena, who retired as Secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development, said that the present central government pension was "meagre" compared with other lesser developed countries like Nepal, Bolivia and Botswana.
"Our budget is Rs 40 lakh crore. Just spend one per cent of the budget, that is Rs 40,000 crore, which at least meets the needs of the elderly," Saxena said.
Daily wager, Bodaru Satyamma, 60, from Telangana griped that she was left in the lurch as the biometric verification machine failed to recognise her fingerprint impression.
"I have not received pension for the last three months because my fingerprints were not read by the machine," Satyamma said and demanded doing away with the machine.
Human rights activist Aruna Roy attacked Modi, saying: "For the last four years, he has been promising 'aache din' to the poor. But, in reality, nothing has happened. This government still provides Rs 200 as pension. It's a shame!"
Pension Parishad coordinator Nikhil Dey said: "This figure of Rs 200 has remained unchanged since 2006-2007 and the worst part of it is the condition that the intended beneficiary must belong to the Below Poverty Line family.
"The Centre thinks providing pension is an act of charity to a set of beggars," Dey said.