In response to a PIL, the Supreme Court has ordered the central government to take steps to provide care and rights to the elderly in India.
• Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) has ordered that governments must strictly implement the provisions of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 (MWP Act).
• Fundamental Right to Live with Human Dignity: The right to dignity, health and shelter are basic rights of elderly under Right to Life as provided under Article 21 of the Indian constitution.
• Pension Benefits: It suggested to make the pension to the elderly more realistic.
- The State of the Pension Report 2018 stated that some states give pension as low as Rs. 200 per month which even compromises the dignity of individual.
• Create a Database: The central government must obtain the necessary information about the numbers of old age homes and medical facilities available in each district.
The Elderly Population in India:
• The ‘elderly’ or ‘senior citizen’ is a person aged 60 and above according to Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
• The population of senior citizens in India is 10.38 crore as per census 2011.
Some Prominent Debates and Critical Factors Related to Elderly in India:
• Old age hardship and right to die with dignity
- There is a right to live, but no right to die in India.
- A person living diseased, dejected and dependent old life continues to live in that state as India doesn’t allow active euthanasia.
- However, in 2011, a SC in its landmark judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case, issued a set of broad guidelines legalizing passive euthanasia in India in specific cases.
• The case for Universal Pension scheme for elderly?
- Pension Parishad (a NGO fighting for the rights of elderly in India) demanded a Universal and Non Contributory Old Age Pension by the government with a minimum amount of monthly pension not less than 50% of minimum wage orRs 2000/- per month, whichever is higher available to all men aged 55 plus and women aged 50 plus.
- To counter fiscal unsustainability and inflationary pressure, a cess could be levied on industries.
• Globalisation, Modernisation and Elderly:
- The global integration, modernisation diluted the old family system making elderlies vulnerable.
- Its direct evidence is increasing number of old age homes and day care centres. But it also provided them with means like fast mobility, communication, various recreational avenues to live old life actively, meaningfully and pursue various interests.
- However, the debate continues regarding the impacts of globalization on elderly in India.
• Urban areas, Changing social systems and Elderly:
- With adults in formal jobs and children occupied by school activities no one is left at house to take care of elderly people. The bonds among neighbours are not as
strong as in rural areas.
- Financial constraints don’t allow them to pursue creativities.
- Neglect from family members force many to prefer day care centres and old age homes than staying with children.
• Caste and Elderly:
- Due to financial issues: The lower caste elderly due to financial issues have to keep on working for livelihood even at old age. Although difficult but it keeps them active, maintains sense of self-worth and garners respect from family.
- While for the upper caste elderlies, good jobs become less available and they hesitate to take menial jobs.
- It renders them jobless so a feeling of ‘worthlessness’ and frustration arises.
• Gender perspective – The old women:
- They keep on contributing in household works and child care under care economy providing unpaid services.
- Hence, they do not have adequate savings in lifetime and face financial hardships and their health issues remain much neglected.
Various Problems Faced by Elderly People:
• Social: Alienation, isolation, loss of social and inter – personal connect in the changing times has marginalized the Old persons.
• Economic: Financial dependency for food and medicine on others often result in unmet needs.
• According to ILO report, Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work, there were 200 million older persons in need of care in 2015.
• If not addressed properly, current deficits in care work and its quality will create a severe and unsustainable global care crisis and further increase gender inequalities in the world of work.
• Healthcare: Senility, dementia and age related health issues trouble them. Further, expensive medicines, lack of proper Public healthcare, low hospital availability in rural areas makes life harder.
• Psychological: Nuclear family system and trend of migration from native places – create psychological insecurity and emotional pain of living away from family.
• Technological: The fast changing technologies and inability to cope with the ways of the modern world pose difficulty in integration with new generation.
• Security: Presently, the community culture has changed and it has made them vulnerable to crimes.
Government Initiatives for Elderly People:
• Legislation: Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 provides Protection and Rehabilitation to Elderly.
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007
• Maintenance of Parents/senior citizens by children/ relatives made obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals
• Revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence by relatives
• Penal provisions for abandonment of senior citizens
• Establishment of Old Age Homes for Indigent Senior Citizens
• Protection of life and property of senior citizens
• Adequate medical facilities for them.
• Integrated Program for Older People (IPOP): To improve the quality of life of the older people by providing basic needs like food, shelter, medical care etc., and assistance to NGOs in providing care services.
• National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSrC): Ensure provisions for elderly people in government schemes and activities.
• Pension schemes: Various schemes like National Old Age Pension Scheme, Varishth Pension Yojana, Atal Pension Scheme (APS) and many other by state governments exist to provide financial aid.
• Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana: It provides senior citizens belonging to BPL category with Assisted Living Devices to aid in low vision/hearing impairment or locomotors and other disabilities.
• Vayoshreshtha Sammans: This National Award for Senior Citizens is provided for rendering distinguished services for the cause of elderly persons.
• Reverse mortgage scheme by National Housing Bank allows a house owner elderly to avail a monthly stream of income against mortgage of the house while remaining the owner and occupant throughout his/her lifetime.
• Concessions like in Income Tax and on railways travels prices are provided.
Issues with Existing Government Mechanisms?
• The pension amount provided is inadequate in most of the states (mere Rs. 200)
• Elderlies face Difficulties in providing the relevant documents (like age proof).
• Inclusion and exclusion errors,
• Long waiting period and delays in release of payments.
• Financial: A Universal Monthly Pension of minimum Rs. 2,000 for the elderly should be provided.
- Housing for the aged, must be a priority. A provision could be created under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana for houses to be built for old homeless.
- More tax breaks can be thought out, or at least removing tax on deposit interest for elderlies can be done.
• Healthcare: Free medical care for elderly through insurance and PPP mechanism can be incorporated in policy making.
- A systematic mechanism should be created to channelize the corporate social responsibility funds for the cause of elderly.
- Overall an overhauling of the geriatric care system is to be ensured across country.
• Psychological: The stereotyping of older people as frail and dependent is not right. Their contributions are often overlooked while their needs and demands are overemphasized.
• Social: Government and people must ensure adequate food, shelter, medicine and other care facilities and make policies that enable them to continue participating in society.
- There is need to establish a higher number of Old age Homes.
• Elderly should be seen as a resource: They carry immense experience and knowledge which is very useful for communities and nation.
- They can help youth overcome problems of drugs and violence; share their life experience like Indian Prime Minister asking all retirees to save their work experience for newcomers.
- They can be moral guides for community causes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, and do counselling. In this way they can monetise and channelize their social capital.
- Old People’s Associations (OPAs) in Vietnam are great example of cooperative way of functioning. These are democratically run associations of elderlies in each village and town. They set agendas, serve community causes and represent their needs to government.