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Friday, October 3, 2008

Only 11 states in India have senior citizens’ maintenance law

The UPA government’s hopes to implement the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 pan India by October 1—International day for older persons—have been dashed to earth.

The Act, which aims to protect the rights of senior citizens and has provisions like 3-month jail to children who abandon their parents, has been implemented by only 11 states so far.

The states that have come on board to implement the Act are Nagaland, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, Kerala, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Orissa. Perturbed by other states’ tardiness, the minister of social justice and empowerment Meira Kumar has written to the respective state governments expecting they notify the Act soon.

Currently, the Centre provides financial assistance to old age homes across the country.

The Act also envisages setting up of old age homes by states in a phased manner. However, the number of old age homes receiving the assistance has fallen consistently over the last three years. From 320 old age homes in 2005-06, the number slipped to 240 in 2007-08. This has happened despite a raise in the allocated funds from Rs10.60 crore in 2006-07 to Rs11.05 crore in 2007-08.

When asked about this anomaly, Kumar said the current provisions as well as those framed under the Act put the onus of implementation on state governments. “We have raised the funds for such schemes. Rest is in the hands of states,” Kumar said.

Elaborating on other provision of the Act Kumar said, “There are several instances where a member of the family or a relative gets the property of a senior citizen transferred in his/her name either on the pretext of looking after them or by coercion and leave them uncared for. To address such problems, the Act has provisions to declare such transfers void. Also, the senior citizen can claim his property back”.

To ensure the security of senior citizens, the Act requires states to prescribe an action plan to the Centre.

“The number of old people who are economically self-sufficient and are living alone voluntarily or involuntarily is increasing day by day. They are becoming soft targets of anti-social elements. It is therefore essential to have a suitable mechanism to protect their lives and property. The Act requires the state governments to prescribe a comprehensive action plan for the same,” Kumar said.


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