Sadamma is poor, 75 years old, and can barely walk. But as far as the government is concerned, its dole of Rs. 10 should be enough to help her pull through the day.
Sadamma is not alone in this predicament. Even as inflation continues to rise with each passing day, millions of elderly people like her in the country force themselves into manual labour for earning a few extra rupees - the government aid hardly enough to make both ends meet.
The Centre gives Rs. 200 as monthly pension to poor citizens between 60 and 80 years of age, and Rs. 500 to those beyond it. The state adds another Rs. 100 from its kitty.A bare-footed Sharafat, who hails from the primitive Saharia tribe of Rajasthan, has no words to express his grief. "I have turned into a beggar at the age of 69," says the man, who had imagined a very different scenario for the future during India's freedom struggle. "The pension comes once in six to seven months."
Hundreds of elderly people, hailing from remote villages across 20 states, came to Delhi demanding at least R2,000 as old-age pension. The Pension Parishad, led by National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy, is spearheading a campaign to push the Central government to agree to a universal pension for senior citizens.
At present, the government gives old age pension only to the ones below poverty line.
According to an estimate by Helpage India, around 90% of 10 crore people above the age of 60 work in the unorganised sector, in the absence of any social security mechanism. Less than two crore are covered under old-age pension schemes.
"I have been running from pillar to post to get old age pension," says Gadki Bai of Rajasthan. In many states, getting such funds hinge on the discretion of local legislators who are quite inaccessible.