Senior citizens plan to stand up for their rights
Dismayed by red tape and upset with the tardy implementation of a government policy concerning them, India's senior citizens are planning a nationwide agitation a day after Independence Day.
The protest will put forward their demands for concessions in essential services, health cover, higher return on their investments with an in-built compensation mechanism for the increase in the cost of living, dwindling interest rates, and proper implementation of the National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP), 1999, passed as The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens' Act in 2007.
The last census in 2001 put the number of senior citizens aged more than 60 years at 7.7 crore. The number is slated to grow substantially with better quality of life and improved medical services — at least in the urban areas.
The latest trigger for the protests, which begin on August 16, is the nonchalant attitude of policymakers towards them, says Dr P Vyasamoorthy, Joint Coordinator, Joint Action Committee for Senior Citizens National Protest Day. "Only three states have implemented the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens' Act so far," says Vyasamoorthy. "The government had appointed a review Committee to look into the policy. The major problem lies in its implementation," he adds.
The review panel, formed in January 2010 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, was asked to draft a new policy for the elderly in view of India's emerging demographic, socio-economic and technology trends. "The existing policy has some loopholes that need to be plugged. The task is to reach a policy that works today as well as 50 years from now," says Mathew Cherian, CEO, Help Age India.
A senior official of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment said that the panel was given a six-month extension in May. To speed things up, four sub-committees on issues concerning the elderly have been formed and the report could be submitted to the government by October 2010.
The subcommittees will examine issues that concern senior citizens including their security and health needs, particularly those of women. "The committee is working on a policy that involves the creation of geriatric wards in all hospitals and a statutory body with the powers of a judicial court to deal with matters related to the elderly including specialised training to sensitise the police towards the elderly," said the official.