Hundreds of senior citizens took to the streets on Thursday to protest inadequate pensions, poor facilities and the State’s indifference to their problems.
Life was back to square one after denizens enjoyed a holiday on India’s 65th Independence Day. However, for thousands of senior citizens, it was not just another day. On Thursday, hundreds of senior citizens took out a rally and held a protest to fight for their rights.
“We also went the legitimate way. We gave letters and did everything, but all in vain. Now we are on the roads shouting slogans and wearing bands so that the government takes us seriously. So what if we are old? We will all fight and make sure we get justice,” said IVLN Chary, one of the protesters.
Several senior citizens gathered under the banner of joint action committees of senior citizens’ welfare associations of Greater Hyderabad and led rallies at eight different places in the City. Around 300 to 400 senior citizens were present at each junction, wearing a black ribbon and shouting slogans.
There are several reasons for their protest, one of which is inadequate old age funds. The central government, under the Indira Gandhi national pension scheme, advised the State government to contribute an amount equal in the `200 per individual being released by them. However, the State continues to pay `200 only for a family of two. “With just `100 per head per month, how does the State government imagine we will survive? There is an immediate need to increase old age pension to `200 per head, which the central and State governments should meet half and half,” said Krishna M Raju, a senior citizen.
States like Karnataka and Maharashtra are already paying `1,000 per head to BPL senior citizens. But in this State, this is the situation, he added. The other reasons for the protest on Thursday are delay in granting concessions in RTC bus fares and extending Arogya Sree Healthcare to above poverty line senior citizens.
“At present, Arogya Sree Healthcare covers only white card holders. These days, medicines have become expensive. Hence, we want the government to extend Arogya Sree Healthcare to middle class senior citizens. Also, several senior citizens travel by APSTRC buses and since years we have only seen the ministers promising to give us 50 per cent concession but in reality, nothing like that has happened,” laments Sita Rama Swamy.
Andhra Pradesh has a senior citizen population of more than 70 lakh. The central government has fixed 60 years as the criteria for considering a person as a senior citizen, but in this State,the age limit continues to be 65 years. Another demand put forth by the protesters is to reduce the age for eligibility as senior citizens.
In the Andhra Pradesh State budget, there is no section allotted for senior citizens. There is no separate department, ministry or commissioner for the welfare of senior citizens.
“Currently, the subject of welfare of senior citizens is joined with the ministry of welfare of women, children and disabled portfolio. Due to this, there is neither a budget allotment nor staff or resources to look into our problems. The government does nothing for us and this is unfair,” said Nageshwara Rao, secretary of the Joint Action Committee.
The senior citizens who participated in the rallies have given a memorandum to the chief minister and are hoping that their problems will be solved and that they would get better facilities.
List of demands
- Creation of a separate department, ministry and commissionerate for the welfare of senior citizens.
- Reducing the age of eligibility as senior citizen.
- Provision for budget allotment for welfare of senior citizens.
- Effective implementation of the Parent Maintenance Act, 2007.
- Extending Arogya Sree Healthcare scheme to above poverty line senior citizens.
- Concessions in RTC bus fares.
- Revision of old age pension.
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