CARE AND PROTECTION OF SENIOR CITIZENS
21st August each year is celebrated as the International Senior Citizens Day. Who are these citizens and what was the need to categorize them? These are some of the questions we will dwell into in the coming paragraphs. Broadly speaking there is a cut of age in each country for a citizen to become eligible for being a senior citizen. In India, U.K and Australia this age is 60 years. In France it is 62 years and in the United States of America it is 65 years. Each country is thus free to decide the age limit for this category of citizens and the age is variable. Historically this day was declared as the Senior Citizens Day in 1991 when the President of the United States signed the requisite documents for promulgation of this day.
The need to support the old, infirm and children has been ingrained into human psychology since times immemorial and the formation of first civilized societies have recorded references to this. The main purpose of this day is to remember and acknowledge the contribution of senior citizens to the Society at large. The contributions are in terms of all the tangible support which they have provided by being tax payers and care givers when they were in their pink of health.
Just like all other countries India also has a rich tradition of respect and care for the elderly and this is enshrined in the Indian Constitution as well which is the basic guiding document of state policy in India. Relevant Part IV of the Constitution states as follows:
“41. The State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.”
Due to the above the Government of India as well as the State Governments have set into motion several schemes for its Senior Citizens. To understand the theme of the schemes they can be divided into two parts, one part provides economic support to the Senior Citizens and the other part provides protection to them in their old age. Succinctly put Senior Citizens have a number of benefits in the Banking System. The rate of interest in the savings account of a Senior Citizen is higher and so is the rate of interest which they get on a Fixed Deposit. The category of billing provided to senior citizens is lower in government telecom companies like MTNL and BSNL. The charges for rail tickets and airplane tickets are also lower for them. Further, they have a lower Income Tax and higher exemptions. There are several schemes launched by the Central Government providing insurance benefits to the Senior Citizens.
For providing protection to the Senior Citizens the Government of India had enacted the; “The Maintenance And Welfare Of Parents And Senior Citizens Act, 2007.” The scheme of this law provides the following main categories of protection:
a) Economic protection by providing for maintenance and care by relatives including who shall be inheriting the property of the Senior Citizen,
b) Establishment of Old Age Homes especially for the persons who are from economically weaker Section of the Society,
c) Declaring of transfers made in favour of relatives who are not maintaining the Senior Citizens as fraudulent in certain cases,
d) Prioritizing Senior Citizens in medical facilities like dedicated beds, research on chronic diseases of the aged persons.
The Central Government has taken a step in the right direction and empowered the Senior Citizens through this Act. There is also a proposed amendment in the pipeline which will strengthen this Act further.
We must briefly discuss if these measures by the government are actually making a difference to the lives of the Senior Citizens in India. No doubt to the enlightened and to the privileged these must be making a difference but there are certain problems which need to be addressed. One of the key issues of any beneficial legislation or scheme is that people should have knowledge of the same. In a vast country like India where illiteracy is rampant it cannot be expected that the rural, poor old persons know of these schemes and their rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution. If one does have knowledge, there is a problem of access. Even though in urban areas these schemes have been given effect to, but aged persons who are infirm cannot access these schemes on account of either suffering from mental or physical illnesses.
Further, most old persons are dependent on their children and in some cases children do not guide them properly. For taking the advantage of the Senior Citizens Act, old persons have to go to the Court of a Sub-Divisional Magistrate and file an application and even after filing there are administrative delays. Such kind of problems make access to justice next to impossible for someone who is already in need of money and may even be suffering from bodily issues.
In conclusion on a day like Senior Citizens Day, it is important to remember the contributions of those who were the youth of yesterday and are the Senior Citizens of today. Each person who goes through the motions of life shall reach old age one day or another and what we give in our youth is what we shall receive in our old age is important to note. If we endeavor to set examples and make this world a better place for senior citizens today we may expect some natural concessions towards us in our old age by the youth of tomorrow and there will not be a requirement of enforcement of law from above, if these feelings are engrained in our society from within.