Senior Citizens in AP: Where do we stand?
Government of India has formulated four welfare schemes for senior citizens requesting various state governments to implement them. Where does Andhra Pradesh stand with respect to the care and protection of elders? Let us look into some important issues.
NPOP: GOI has formulated National Policy on Older Persons in 1999. AP government was good enough to accept it quickly. But nothing has been done to implement NPOP provisions except publishing a booklet on it. NPOP is under revision and the new NPOS is likely to be out any time now. What will be fate of it in AP not known as the department concerned is unconcerned about it.
MWPSCA: Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 was enacted by central government to offer some relief to elders, forcing children to take care of them. AP, as usual, was quick to notify it. That is all. Though more than three years have passed the Rules have not been notified. As a result, though tribunals have been set up in districts, they do not know how to proceed in the absence of clear cut rules. Tribunals are not functioning. A few collectors (West Godhavary, Nizamabad etc) sympathetic towards welfare of senior citizens have acted on their own initiative; here, through tribunals, a few hundred awards have been made against appeals of senior citizens under this Act. Our pleas to notify the rules have fallen on deaf ears for many years.
Old Age Homes: Andhra Pradesh has enjoyed maximum grants from central government for setting up and running old age homes. There are supposed to be some 450 Old age homes in this state. But most of them do not exist – not even name boards! This only shows the utter lack of concern in monitoring activities of aged care NGOs. We have been consistently asking the State government to make State Council for Older Persons responsible for monitoring OAHs.
IGNOAPS: Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) is intended for 60+ senior citizens in BPL category. Central government gives RS 200 and recommends a similar or higher amount to be given from State funds, thus ensuring a minimum of Rs 400 per month. There are states which give as much as Rs 1000 per month (Goa Delhi Tamilnadu etc). Andhra Pradesh merely gives Rs 200/- only per month that too for 65+ BPL senior citizens. The AP government's plea for not giving its share is that the definition of BPL in AP has been so relaxed that about 80% of the entire population is under BPL! This was done most unimaginatively and foolishly by former government under Sri Rajasekar Reddy. We are pleading that ALL eligible really poor senior citizens (as per central govt norms) must be given a minimum of Rs 400 per month under IGNOAPS.
Aarogyasri: Health security for senior citizens. This is the only redeeming factor in AP. Aarogyasri scheme meant to take care of hospitalization of entire BPL family benefits senior citizens also as they are also automatically included. Aarogyasri is an excellent scheme with real benefits to the poor. We have been pleading that senior citizens in APL category also should be extended Aarogyasri benefits, perhaps on a premium sharing basis. For BPL Aarogyasri is totally free.
It may be seen from the foregoing account that it is nothing short of rape in the case of senior citizens in AP. When will the state wake up, only elections will tell. After all senior citizens form 10% of the population and they are 22% of 'effective' voter population! Surely we can decide which way to turn.