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Bhopal survivors march for pension rises

Allowance has not been raised in 17 years

Barely enough to eat: elderly want an increase on their US$ 3 monthly pension Barely enough to eat: elderly want an increase on their US$ 3 monthly pension
  • ucanews.com reporter, Bhopal
  • India
  • October 2, 2012
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Around 1,000 elderly women, all survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster, protested in Bhopal yesterday to demand better pensions.

The protesters, who say they barely get enough to feed themselves, symbolically waved roti - Indian flat bread - as they marched through the Madhya Pradesh capital in a protest designed to coincide with International Senior Citizen’s Day.

Holding the bread and placards, they demanded a government increase on the present monthly pension of 150 rupees (around US$ 3) to at least 1,000 rupees, to compensate for the rising costs of essential commodities.

“How can anyone expect us to lead a decent life under this situation?” Rampyari Bai, vice president of an advocacy group for the rights of Bhopal gas survivors, said to ucanews.com.

Bai, 82, who led the protest, said the current pension was fixed 17 years ago and has not increased since.

“It shows how much attention the government pays to issues concerning elderly people,” she added.

All the protesters were over 65 and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in which toxic methyl isocyanate leaked from a Union Carbide chemical plant, killing 5,295 people immediately and more than 25,000 in the months and years that followed.

“We have no other source of income. We have to spend what meager income we get on medicines as well as other daily necessities,” said Sunita Devi, another participant.

Many of the women suffer from breathing problems and other ailments which they attribute to the gas disaster.

Devi said legislators, ministers and government servants increase their own salaries and perks, but no one ever bothers about the elderly.

In response to the protest, state minister for social justice Gopal Bhargava said the government was committed to ensuring a better life to senior citizens and fulfilling their requirements and aspirations, but did not elaborate.

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