India has proclaimed itself as a welfare state and of course it has also introduced social security schemes like ‘payment of pension’ etc to the retiring government employees which costs the coffers of the states as well as the central government considerably. Some State Governments like Tamil Nadu has also introduced welfare schemes for payment of ‘old age pension’ and ‘widow pension’ etc, in the unorganised sector to rescue the aged people from their financial doldrums to some extent. But, these payments are being made selectively only to the people who have no dependants to look after them. But in practice, the party people mostly misappropriate these funds and manage to get them either for their party people or relatives etc and most of the deserving cases, are simply ignored and neglected.
The retired and the aged peoples have been given a separate nomenclature in the Indian Society called ‘the Senior Citizens’ and the people who are in the age group of post 65 are generally considered as senior citizens. The people who are above 70 are septuagenarians, above 80 are Octogenarians and above 90 are nonagenarians.
When we compare the total strength of the pensioners, with the total strength of the senior citizens in India, it is only a very small percentage and forms only a handful of people. They are converged mostly in the urban areas and the bulk of the aged people who are senior citizens are mostly in the rural and semi-urban areas, who mostly suffer from senility and remain uncared for. However, the Indian Government had been under a long period of hibernation as far as the senior citizens are concerned.
Only in the year,2007, the Government of India had at last realized the urgent need of doing something for the cause of the senior citizens and enacted the Senior Citizens Act, 2007, the first of its kind in India. The act enables the senior citizens to proceed against their dependants who fail to look after them and claim maintenance from them. The act also provides for a stringent provision for imposing a fine of upto Rs 5,000/- and imprisonment of up to six months, to the dependants who fail to take care of those senior citizens. Above all the Act provides for yet another significant provision of canceling the gift by a senior citizen, given to his or her ward or legal heir, in case of his or her failure to look after the senior citizen who gifted away his or her immovable property. Though the Act suggests for the establishment of homes for rehabilitation of the aged, it does not make any monetary provision for them and the homes for the aged are left to the initiatives of the individuals. Despite of its flaws, the act is a step in the right direction.
Senior citizens have also been extended with some other concessions and benefits by the Indian Government. Their income-tax ceiling has been recently enhanced by the Finance Ministry, to Rs 2,25,000/- Indian Railways has offered 50 % concession in ticket fares for senior citizens. The Courts are giving preference to the senior citizens in the disposal of the cases as quickly as possible. But all these concessions are availed only by a negligible percentage of people in the urban areas. Similarly, the Sixth pay commission report recently submitted by Justice Srikrishna has announced some enhanced pension to a section of the senior citizens on attaining the age of 80, 85, 90. 95, and 100, which is in practice available to only a handful of people, among the pensioners.
The Senior citizens living in the rural areas in India does not even know that they are senior citizens and they are all the cursed people on the earth. They suffer from senility, immobility, lacking in confidence, lacking in basic amenities like food, dress and shelter and they are forsaken by their own wards, uncared for , yearn for love and affection and they suffer in silence.
The most serious aspect that remains to be addressed as far as the Senior Citizens in India are concerned is the rank disrespect, discourtesy shown towards them by one and all and simply they are treated and considered as just superfluous elements in the society. But it is an irony that our politicians who are at the helm of affairs, in the government or at the party system whether it be Congress I or BJP or the Communist parties, the decision makers are the senior citizens in the respective parties and the respect they command and enjoy is unquestionable.
Hence, whether it is an organization or a party or a village or an association, there must be a orientation class to the youngsters to change their attitude towards the senior citizens of a country which is known for its culture, heritage and many a flourishing civilizations.
1. The Hindu (daily)
2. The Deccan Harold (daily)