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Budget increases allowance to senior citizens but they were still not happy

The government on Wednesday announced an increase in the allowance for senior citizens by Rs 1,000, taking the sum to Rs 3,000, but senior citizens said they were still not happy.

The protesting senior citizens have said they, however, will now call off their protest.

“We are not fully happy with the announcement. But we are going to drop our protests,” said Maha Prasad Parajuli, president of Senior Citizen Struggle Committee, a group of senior citizens that has for long been demanding an increase in the allowance. “We will have a working committee meeting on Thursday. This will take a decision on how we will take our movement further.”

While unveiling the budget for fiscal year 2019/20, Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada said the elderly citizens will get Rs 3,000 monthly allowance. Earlier, senior citizens, those above 70 years of age, were entitled to Rs 2,000 as monthly social security allowance.

The working committee consists of 1,700 members from the Kathmandu Valley.

Over five dozen elderly people have been staging a daily sit-in at Minbhawan in Kathmandu, demanding better social security provision since 2012   According to the committee, 37 protesters have passed away in the past seven years.

“In its election manifesto, the Nepal Communist Party had promised to increase the elderly social security allowance to Rs 5,000. The party won the election, but has yet to deliver on its promise,” said Parajuli. According to the 2011 census, there are around 2.1 million people aged 60 or above in the country.

The senior citizen allowance scheme was introduced by former finance minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari in 1994-95 starting with Rs 100 for people aged over 75.

The allowance sum remained the same for eight years. It was during Adhikari’s second stint as a finance minister in 2004-05 when the allowance was raised to Rs 175.

The allowance sum was later increased to Rs 500 during Baburam Bhattarai’s tenure as a finance minister in 2008. The sum was doubled to Rs 1,000 by the Nepali Congress  government in 2014, when Ram Sharan Mahat was the finance minister.

In 2015, then finance minister Bishnu Paudel of the erstwhile CPN-UML government again doubled the senior citizen allowance to Rs 2,000.

During the 2017 elections, the Nepal Communist Party had promised to increase the allowance to Rs 5,000. But the party failed to deliver on its electoral promise after coming to power, much to the displeasure of the senior citizens.

“Things are getting very expensive every day, even Rs 5,000 will be barely enough for us to survive. The government failed to pay heed to our plight,” Parajuli said.

 

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