Member Secretary & Joint Secretary (SD),
Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment,
Government of India, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-110001
Sub: Meeting on 19-3-10 for Reviewing the National Policy of Older Persons, 1999.
Ref: Your letter no. F.No.15-40(2)/09-10/AG II dt 11-3-10 received on 15-3-10.
In continuation of my letter dt 18-12-09 to Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment by name, I give the following suggestions for discussion on 19-3-10.
With the expected abnormal increase of elderly population in the coming decades, if we do not take proper steps immediately in right spirit, there will be large crowds of uncontrollable and uncared for elders roaming about on roads (more in number than stray dogs/cows/buffalos etc seen on roads to-day) with Alzheimer, Dementia and many age related diseases difficult to manage for the Society & the Government. On the other hand also, if Science’s Dream Girl promising Eternal Youth by changing genes, using stem cells & magic pill for food & medicines etc come to our shore at affordable/subsidized/free cost, there will be crowds of youthful elders roaming for work/employment. In view of this likely grave situation of very large elder population in coming decades, it is necessary that immediate steps are taken to face this likely situation in right earnestness by all stake holders by making proper budget provisions regularly every year.
The present state of non-implementation of Policy,99 is mainly due to rigid thinking of Nodal Ministry that Policy is for guidance only and of other Ministries that the subject of NPOP,99 is not for them but only for Nodal Ministry and States/UTs not bothering much for their elders. This position must be removed by clearly bringing out in the Policy as to what action is to be taken by whom and bringing the provisions of para 93 of the Policy in II-National Policy Statement after para23. The position of very large elder population with large number of ailments and problems should be empathetically brought out with latest Demographic Trends in Implication portion of the Policy in para 7 to 11. Each Stake Holder should be asked to give action taken by them on each para and should be put up to Committee for appreciation of the existing position after 11 years and to propose further action on each para.
Immediate issues concerning Senior Citizens requiring prompt action are as under:-
i) For payment of IGNOAP (Pension), the concept that Senior Citizens must belong to BPL family must be abolished. The Pension of Rs 1000 should be paid to all Senior Citizens having income of less than Rs 2000 p.m.; Pension of Rs 750 to all having income less than 4000 p.m.; Rs 1000 to all women Senior Citizens, whether widow or married. Those above 80 must be given 20% extra every 5 years. All must be given dearness relief every 6 months. Insurance cover to BPL Senior Citizens belonging to unorganized sector should be extended to all Senior Citizens of 60 and above and cover should be more than 30000.
ii) To avoid/reduce the cases of various diseases and to enable Senior Citizens to lead Active Life, the Senior Citizens should be provided with avenues of avoiding loneliness and keeping engaged in hobbies, profession etc. The scheme of Day Care Centers and other Schemes laid down in Integrated Programme are the main avenues for keeping Senior Citizens fit & engaged. Leaving to NGOs etc to provide such facilities may not bring desired results within desired time. This responsibility with targets & number of each scheme for each district/ward etc can be fixed and given to Municipalities/Panchayats with time bound plan of action, as done for one Old Man’s House in each district by State/UT Government in Welfare & Maintenance Act, if necessary by separate legislation or including this in Maintenance & Welfare Act. Such Schemes for all Senior Citizens at all places as per fixed scale will act like preventive steps to help Senior Citizens from various diseases created due to loneliness.
iii) Sufficient avenues for second career and/or utilization on honorarium basis of Senior Citizens, who are the Think Tank of the Country and experienced must be laid down in the Policy, with large number of income generating schemes.
iv) Nothing is done all these years for providing proper health services. The proposed comprehensive National Programme for Health Care of elderly at primary, secondary & tertiary level must be scrutinized by the Committee and time bound action plan laid down in Policy. The existing facilities by Central/State & Municipal/Panchayat should be made free and improved considerably & brought to Private Hospital level and para-medical staff and doctors given training periodically to treat & behave kindly with elders. Private Hospitals must be forced to give free & concessional treatment, as provided in Public Trust Act. An Ombudsman Organization like IRDA should be constituted for whole Medical Business including production & supply of medicines. Standard Price List for various pathological, surgery etc processes should be laid down for different areas & different types of hospitals. Affordable medical treatment without any hurdles should be available for all Senior Citizens. Affordable Health Insurance with subsidized premium for low & middle income group should be provided for all ages without exclusion of existing diseases. Recommendations of Sastry Committee, as accepted by IRDA should be got incorporated in Policy and got acted upon..
v) All retired employees from Government Departments as well as Public & Private Sector must be provided all facilities like pension, medical, use of Welfare Centers, Libraries etc after retirement also by the erstwhile employers, as available to serving employees.
vi) Senior Citizens not getting Pension but surviving on interest income are hit very adversely due to dwindling interest rates & unmanageable dearness and require some help to maintain, if not earlier working time standard but atleast some standard. A scheme of higher interest must be provided in the Policy. New Tax Law is adversely affecting Senior Citizens and Policy may provide some protection.
vii) Monitoring Machinery to get progress of action taken at local level, State level & Central level should be laid down. (Para 93-94). Formation of NAOP (Para 95) at various levels by fixing targets is a must and such Associations will not only monitor the progress but also bring the requirements etc of Senior Citizens to the notice of concerned Public & Private Stake Holders. Permanent Negotiating Machinery at various levels and Joint Consultative Committee at Centre level should be laid down in Policy. All such Associations must be provided with circulars/instructions/information pertaining to Senior Citizens by all Government Departments to keep their members aware of what is happening. NCOP is not functioning properly. Constitution and working system for NCOP should be included in Policy. In absence of NAOP and recognized Associations at various levels, information about good work done by Government and benefits given does not reach at grass route levels. Again, in absence of proper Monitoring System for non-Government Stake Holders like Media, Trusts, Corporate World, Bollywood etc, no one either issues instructions or monitors the work done by these stake holders. Proper Machinery for this should be laid down in Policy.
viii) Unless Media is actively involved in this likely position of very large population of Senior Citizens in coming decades and their problems, nothing much can be achieved. Policy must lay down in clear terms the expectations of Senior Citizens from media and who will liaison with Media.
ix) Housing Schemes for Senior Citizens with medical facilities and common kitchen should be provided on rental basis with number of flats/tenements in each ward/district on programme basis in addition to sufficient number of Vrudhashrams free and paying. Reservation of fixed percentage for Senior Citizens in all Government housing schemes must be statutorily provided. Holiday Homes, Convalescent Homes should be provided at various places by giving targets. Concession/facilitation in transport facilities, hotels etc by Public & Private Sector including Travel Agencies are necessary for change in atmosphere, pilgrimage, trips etc. Entertainment for Senior Citizens is also must for maintaining good health and Cinema Houses are also required to look after their elders. Special drama/cinema on topics pertaining to Senior Citizens will help in creating healthy & happy atmosphere.
x) Welfare Fund for Senior Citizens by each Stake Holder must be provided with procedure for budget provision, donations & use of such fund. Central & State Welfare Funds must be provided for various welfare schemes & help to Senior Citizens.