Elderly continue sit-in for more social security

  • Fifteen of the demonstrators have died since protests began 3 years ago
- Pratichya Dulal, Kathmandu

Apr 4, 2016-

Around 50 elderly citizens began a peaceful sit-in three years ago demanding better social security provisions. However, not only have their demands fallen on deaf ears, 15 of them have lost their lives since then. 

Every morning, these elderly citizens gather at a defunct trolley bus station in Minbhawan at 11am, offer a minute’s silence in memory of the lost ones and chant their demands before they return home. The session usually lasts for around two hours.

The crux of their demands include fifty percent concession in public transportation, free medical checkup at government hospitals and monthly allowance of Rs 5,000. 

They have also been urging for laws which prohibit children to inherit parental property before the death of the parents.

However, even though the government provides a card for fifty percent concession in public vehicles, something that had been stated in the Senior Citizens Act 2006, and increased their allowance to Rs 1,000 from Rs500, elderly citizens have not been able to avail the facility for public vehicles provide concession to only two senior citizens. 

The Act stipulates that public vehicle reserve two seats for people over the age of 60 and grant them 50 percent concession in fare. Based on this Act, public vehicles deny providing concession to more than two senior citizens. 

 “Government has all but issued a card which does not always provide us concession. It has been difficult to make people realise that we old-aged people do not have the luxury of  time. We have already lost 15 of our friends,” said Maha Prasad Parajuli, president of Senior Citizens Struggle Committee (SCSC). 

Basu Lamsal, Ram Pokhrel, Bal Kumari Koirala, Nar Bahadur Khan, Lok Prasad Bhattarai, Prem Hari Amatya, Lal Bahadur Khatri, Chet Kumari Dahal, Seema Parajuli, Maiya Lamichane,  Sanu Maya Thapa, Krishna Bahadur Shrestha, Hari Bahadur Shrestha, Laxman Thakuri and Purna Mani Dhakal, all members of the SCSC, have passed away in the last three years. 

Maha, 66, further argued that meeting the demands of their committee meant that the old-aged would remain with their family, which in turn would relive the government the burden of investing in old-age homes.

Despite their age, members of the SCSC have also been making rounds to various government institutions, including the Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare, and the Ministry of Finance, with their list of demands. They have also formed branches in nine districts.

The government, however, is hesitant to fulfil their demands. “We added Rs 500 as medical allowance in the last budget. We will try to increase the monthly allowance in the next budget. Even though our ministry would push for it, we will need support from other ministries as well,” said Ram Prasad Bhattarai, under secretary at Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare. 

According to the census, there are 2.1 million people aged above 60 in the country. To provide monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 to them, the 

government would have to spend Rs10 billion from its coffers.

 

Published: 04-04-2016 08:49

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