CC: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: RE: MWPSC Act, 2007
Date: Sun, 5 Jan 2014 02:28:10 +0000
Thanks for joining the debate on the vital issue of destitute and abandoned senior citizens. Dr. Asha Patil of SNDT Women's University responded before you and argued in favour of nationwide interaction on the subject in the form of local Seminars on the subject. I welcome such suggestions and continued interaction. "Dispossession, Destitution and Abandonment - the Senior Citizens in India" is the title of a recent book of mine published by Sonali Publications (2014). I continue to be a student of this subject and document and analyze the latest incidents and thought processes; I will be very glad to learn from your efforts in the form of a paper.
It is essentially an issue where the economics of life takes over the very critical filial duty that all human beings have been taught by parents and senior ciitzens. As a teacher all my life, I am inclined to believe that what the teacher has not taught, or has poorly taught, the learner has not learnt. The cruelty towards the elders represents a mismatch, in the mind of the younger members of each family, in balancing the filial duty and harsh economic realities of poverty.
If you want to see the destitute and abandoned senior citizens, please visit an NGO known by the name House of Hope, located on the outskirts of Bengaluru, where they embrace their life ending within 15 to 20 days of their finding a place after being left mercilessly on the roadsides and highways. I am inclined to believe that the street is kinder to them than their own kith and kin; the street gives to them a lot than what they received in their own homes, that they raised and built so lovingly. Street is far more pious than some of us; it willingly parts with small change and other things, which are very precious to the destitute and abandoned.
The elders either surrender or are forced to surrender, in some families in our country, cash, other saved assets, and sometimes even the very social position that they have earned and nurtured by their hard work and exemplary conduct. Some of them may not have succeeded, may have been unfortunate, in the area of exemplary conduct in life. However, the rate race of becoming overnight well-to-do, if not filthy rich, has somehow managed to smother the filil duty in many of us. I believe that the clan, neighbourhood and community must step in to provide life-saving relief to such persons on the spot and instantly. The State is awakened to the crisis, it is probably looking for evidence and data to formulate a meaningful response to it. I did suggest to the National Human Rights Commission, in its recent Core Group Meeting on Elderly Persons, that they should hold Public Hearings to document such evidence and data. I found the response from the NHRC somewhat lukewarm and half-hearted; they are probably not inclined to undertake an exploratory effort in an area that is largely uncharted and of grave significance to the very edifice of human rights - denial of survival with dignity rights.
I must commend the State for taking note of the crisis of dispossession, destitution and abandonment of senior ciitzens within the framework of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Ciitzens' Act, 2007. The relevant section in the law on this subject is a chilling reminder to children and other beneficiary relatives that their conduct is being watched. The clan, neighbourhood and community, along with the various civil society groups, must supplement this effort by building psychological and social pressure on the children and beneficiary relatives of the parents or senior citizens to accept their elders as the part of their families and maintain them at whatever psychological, economicand social level that they are maintaining their own children or themselves. I am somewhat uncomfortable with the thought that civil society's duty ends by either placing trust in making the laws more stringent, and at times inhuman, or blaming governmental slow response measures.
The Ministry of Social Justicfe & Empowerment is in the process of finalizing a nationwide Awareness Raising Plan in regard to this law. I hope that the plan will formulate an Awareness Raising plan which is section-wise in regard to the legal response to the human miseries that senior citizens have been subjected to, not just a bland newspaper or television commercial about the fact of the law having been put in place. I had articulated a view in the meeting of the Experts Group on the subject that an Awareness Raising Plan must be based on the content of the law and the case law emerging gradually in this regard. The Awareness Raising stories in the media, as also in the advertisements, should be based on actual stories of denial of maintenance, destitution of parents and senior citizens through grabbing/fraud/etc., abandonment of parents and senior citizens and the consequential denial of life, lethargy of the concerned Ministries and other responsible agencies to put in place the shelter, health and economic security protocols, etc.
I think that like-minded persons must continue their fight.
Subject: Re: MWPSC Act, 2007
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Re: Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
University of Delhi
The most stringent suggestion made in Shri Mital's letter relates to the punitive section relating to a delinquent provider of maintenance - he would like the punishment to be raised to Rs. 50,000/- and/or 5 years. Let us realize that it is part of a problem that arises within a family, not a generic problem that views all such delinquent a class by themselves. Let us also realize that more cases of delinquency in providing maintenance are visible among families affected by extreme poverty, though there are occasional cases in media where well-to-do children have defaulted. Tbe burden in case of the suggested amendment would hurt the poor most, though some well-to-do children and other beneficiary relatives will also get a salutary lesson. The approach to the question of delinquency in providing maintenance should be on "persuasive pressure from the clan and the neighbourhood, even the community", rather than on a very harsh law that hurts the poor most.
I am just wondering if we are adopting a "trigger-happy" attitude when we suggest harsh measures in dealing with what is essentially a psychological and social problem. Granted that providers of maintenance become delinquent out of greed, ill-will or an ego-trip, or a mis-match in human relations within the family, apart from widespread poverty, the corrective burden should be on the social forces - clan, neighbourhood and community - rather than on the law and its punitive force. When the lawmakers envisaged a fine of Rs. 5000/- and/or imprisonment for 3 months, they had largely the poor families, who have so far come before the before the Maintenance Tribunals in a majority. The lawmakers had also laid considerable premium by the provision of Conciliation that they provided in the law. We should have laid emphasis on training of such conciliation officers and conciliation process and the use of psycho-social methodologies to generate socially meaningful results. While some States need to complete the "nuts and bolts' of enforcing the legislation, we also need to back up the legislation in terms of training of its personnel at various levels. We need to give a chance to the full potential of the law and the various legal provisions, before we make demands for amendments.
Delinquent behaviour on the part of the children and other beneficiaries of the senior citizen's assets has also to be analyzed in the context of role models that senior citizens have set for their children in their younger days. A Canadian longitudinal research study (spread over a period of 15 years) has pointed out that abuse takes place, mainly, in homes where children were witness to abusive behaviour on the part of their parents and other elders. Refusal to maintain one's own parents or other senior citizens by the intended beneficiaries of their saved assets and resources is a very grave abuse, apart from the fraudulent practices by which parents and senior citizens are deprived of their hard-earned resourcess. The inescapable inference from such a study should help us to take a more humane view of the phenomenon of delinquent behaviour and involve social beings in the clan, neighbourhood and community to work towards lessening the incidence of the phenomenon of such delinquency.
The provision of stringent punishment and sky-rocketing fine tends to ignore the plight of those senior citizens who do not have any beneficiary relatives. The State must accept responsibility to provide support in the form of survival with dignity rights including income security, shelter security, food security and health security. In this regard, most of us seem content with a gradual approach to putting the programmes and supportive practices in place. The Ministry of Health & Famioly Welfare has done reasonably well through its National Programme of Health Care for the Elderly. However, they have yet to do work relating to a National Mental Health Programme and Care Initiatives for the senior citizens, particularly the palliative care for those senior citizens who have reached a stage of being beyond cure. Such senior citizens must be ensured dignity in their dying days. The Ministry of Home Affairs has again done well in communicating protocols, to the various State Governments, for protection of life and property of senior citizens. The Police Authorities in various Metropolitan cities have done a good job of computer-based networking of their infrastructure; some southern cities have done exceedingly well in quick outreach to the thana-level personnel. Senior Citizens facing abuse or threats to life and protection of property have gained from such computer-based networking insofar the caring face of the Police is visible to them without any signicant loss of time. The Ministry of Rural Development needs to seriously consider providing shelter rights to the destitute and abandoned senior citizens.
Our emphasis in the next few years should be on the rigorous implementation of what the law has christened as "obligations of the State" as articulated in a large number of Chapters. A Welfare State must make sufficient provision for the survival rights of the dispossessed, destitute and abandoned senior citizens.
The right of aggrieved children has not been made a subject of Appellate Tribunals largely on account of the primacy that the law accords to the right of the aggrieved parents and senior citizens; the aggrieved children have not been given the right to contest the amount of maintenance ordered by the Maintenance Tribunal. Such aggrieved children have a right to approach the higher courts for contesting the matter on other substantive issues; in fact, some cases of this nature have cropped up in the State of Kerala and the aggrieved children have sought adjudication at the level of the High Court arguing that they cannot be classified as legitimate children or beneficiary relatives of the aggrieved senior citizen.
Lastly, let us recognize that the country has a federal constitution which accords considerable importance to the wisdom of the State Governments to bring their wisdom to bear on the enactment of the law and framing of rules. The Central Government cannot be accorded such extreme powers to ignore the wisdom of the State Governments. Let us not posit a situation where the Central Government assumes the role of sole repository of human wisdom. The State Governments are trying their best to find the required personnel for the Maintenance and Appellate Tribunals and other resources required for putting the law in place, apart from firefighting on the law and order front. The Nodal Ministry at the Centre continues to cajole them in this regard and the number of states that have put the law in place continues to increase. In fact, the Nodal Ministry should bring out a Progress Report in regard to this law as it spreads to several States and Union Territories. Smt. Jaya Bachchan, Member of Parliament, has tabled a question in this regard; relevant information would have been placed in the public domain had the last session not ended abruptly.
Social legislation has unfortunately lagged behind in its implementational force, largely on account of its intent behing ahead of the time or of widespread social recognition of such delinquent behaviour on the part of children and other beneficiary relatives. We need to go after "nuts and bolts" of the implementation process in case of social legislation, not tinker the very spirit and structure of law through recommended amendments.
I submit these few points in all humility, and, in the interest of a harmonious working of the institution of family, clan, nighbourhood and community that has so far kept our communities and society together. Some children may have gone delinquent, the family in India still swears by concern and solidarity for all its family members, including senior citizens. Such a plea need not negate the critical significance of the principle of "rule of law" in our personal and public transactions of life.