The Pension Parishad on Sunday wrote to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal demanding immediate action on its demand for universalising pensions and declaring Jantar Mantar as “Sangharsh Sthal (protest site)” with toilet, bathrooms and cooking facilities.
In two separate letters written to Kejriwal, the Pension Parishad in letters, signed by eight activists including Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, also congratulated Kejriwal, a former activist, on becoming chief minister.
Noting universalisation of pensions at half the minimum wage is one of its key demands, the letter said elderly from Delhi and across the country have assembled at the Jantar Mantar to draw attention to their plight over the past six parliamentary sessions, and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders, including Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, interacted with them.
The letter said Bhushan assured if AAP came to power, the party would ensure the issue of pensions for the elderly is given the utmost priority.
Pension Parishad said Delhi has a population of 14 lakh elderly who were among the most vulnerable and noted pension scheme of the Delhi government had several problems.
“We request you to remedy the situation expeditiously as the elderly may not survive without adequate pension support,” the parishad said, adding that if Delhi was to universalise old age pension, the total cost to the exchequer would only be about Rs.1,700 crore per annum at present rates.
It urged Kejriwal to accord priority to the issue.
In the letter about the problems faced by protesters at Jantar Mantar, the parishad said the place is like a “dissenter’s ghetto” and “an apology” for providing space for people from all over the country to present their case to the central government and parliament.
It said Jantar Mantar in central Delhi has come to symbolise a democratic space where voices of ordinary people are amplified.
“As you know from many of your own protests, this important place has, however, been completely neglected by the Delhi government. While hundreds of thousands of people congregate there, the lack of sanitary and other facilities is appalling,” the parishad said.
“It would be fitting and appropriate for your government to declare Jantar Mantar as ‘Sangharsh Sthal’ and provide toilets, bathrooms, metal structures to install tents, chabutaras (elevated structure), cooking facilities and also open up other spaces in the city for civic action. The ‘Sangharsh Sthal’ could be simple, functionally and aesthetically appealing. This would uphold and enhance the people’s right to protest and seek redress,” the letter said.