Seventy-five-year-old Chelliamma, is forced to beg to get a square meal as she doesn't get her pension money from the government regularly.
She lives in a slum in Ullal Upanagara, near Kanakapura, in Bengaluru.
On World Elders day, October 1, about 500 senior citizens gathered in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike headquarters to protest against the low, irregular pension and for the revival of the mid-day meals scheme.
The elders are being given (jointly by the state government and central government) a measly sum of Rs 500/- per month as pension on attaining the age of 65 years (subject to the condition that they do not have earning sons/ daughters and that they belong to Below Poverty Line families).
They were also supposed to get midday meals from the BBMP. Citing lack of funds, they stopped providing meals, three years back. The midday meals scheme catered to almost 5000 elders across the city.
â€śThe reason for lack of funds is unacceptable in the light of the revenue earned by the BBMP from the labour contributed by these elders in building and maintenance of the city. BBMP easily finds funds for several wasteful expenditures,â€ť says Nirmala one of the activists with Aikyata, a social organisation.
The BBMP stopped the midday meal about three years ago
The elders complain that there is no money to buy food. An amount of Rs. 500 that the government gives in the name of pension is not enough and is never paid regularly. Those who can work, take up odd jobs as cleaners and helpers to earn more money.
The Mayor has promised the protesting elders that he would work on the issues. He has said that BBMP would resume the mid-day meal scheme for the elderly within a week.
However, no decision has been taken on the pension issue.
â€śThe elders were asked by the Chief Minister to go to the labour department. If the Chief Minister himself passes the buck, how can we expect any progress?,â€ť asks Muniappa, an activist of Aikyata.
Over 500 elders from slums in various corners of Bengaluru took part in the protest
"Every month, for the last two years, I have made more than three trips to the post office to check if the pension money has come. Many times I have come back empty handed," says Dhanalakshmi, a resident of Lingarajapura slum.
Many of the elders donâ€™t have any identity cards to claim their pension. Even those who have, their identity proofs have mistakes with regard to their age and spelling of names.
â€śIf my age is mentioned as 40 years in the identity card, then obviously I would not be granted the pension which is meant for senior citizens,â€ť says Latha, Vice President of Aikyata.
Latha, president of Aikyata
Latha adds that the government must not consider pension as a charity. It is a right that is earned by the elders during 40-50 years of their working life.
â€śThe government is just ignoring the pension issue. I donâ€™t think they are going to take up the issue at least for sometime,â€ť says Devraj Sebastian one of the co-ordinators of FEDINA (Foundation for Educational Innovations in Asia).