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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Senior Citizens of India Demand Action: They Rise to Highlight their Concern

Press Release : 10th August 2011

Another year will be added to the celebrations of India’s Independence Day on 15th August 2011 and the platitudes regarding people, culture, ethnicity, values, etc will once again be repeated through various mediums. Have these good intentions been translated into practice?

When it comes to intentions and practice, especially with senior citizens it raises a big question. Despite the fact that the NPOP(National Policy for Older Persons) was adopted by the Central Government as far back as 1999, the neglect by the State and Central Governments and the entire bureaucracy in the tardy or virtual non-implementation of policies with regard to the welfare of senior citizens is most obvious.

Progress since 16th August, 2010

In response to this injustice and neglect, 16th August 2010 was observed as a National Protest Day. As a result of nationwide activity last year, there has been some semblance of positive action from the Central Government such as concessions in Income Tax structure, Railway fares, quantum of Old Age Pension, eligibility criteria for concessions etc. There are also numerous glaring disparities in payment of pensions to retirees from different sectors, causing severe hardship in some cases. These need to be highlighted and their redressal sought.

Progress on the demands highlighted in last year's Protest Day has been painfully slow. Specifically, the Union budget of March 2011 has lowered the age for eligibility to concessions for senior citizens from 62 to 60 years, seniors above the age of 80 years (oldest old) have been exempted from Income Tax and the railway budget has extended concession in passenger fares. Specially in the case of Maharashtra, Senior Citizens Associations under the leadership of the Joint Action Committee, Maharashtra have met the concerned minister on several occasions to demand that the State Policy for Seniors be promulgated. Promises have been made, but it is yet to see the light of day. What has been achieved is the adoption and notification of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (MWPSCA, 2007). However, nothing has been done to spread awareness about the Act and the tribunals which are to be created at the district level for its effective implementation are nowhere to be seen.

Rationale for the Solidarity Day - 16th August, 2011

It is obvious that State governments are yet to wake up and respond. They continue to be indifferent towards the problems and concerns of senior citizens. Hence through the activities leading upto August 16, 2011 the focus of attention is to demand that state governments fulfill their commitments. Senior Citizens organizations around India felt that the momentum gained by the observance of Senior Citizens National Protest Day last year on 16th August 2010 should not be allowed to dissipate. Senior citizens should continue to mark their presence in society and particularly with the government. And hence this year it has been decided to observe 16th August 2011 as SENIOR CITIZENS NATIONAL SOLIDARITY DAY all over India.

On the National Solidarity Day 16th August, the Centre For Lifelong Learning, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences along with 10 crores Older Persons (60 +) citizens of the country, the vast majority of whom are indigent, underfed, insecure and unorganized, are demanding the Government’s immediate attention and action to implement welfare policies and available legislation at state level. The intentions of the Central Government in formulating schemes / policies for the older persons has been to relieve them from the clutches of hunger, disease, poverty, neglect and insecurity. Three policies exists to translate their intention. These are: National Policy on Older Persons, (NPOP, 1999), enactment of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (MWPSCA, 2007), and announcing the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS, 2007). These Acts are a part of the country’s commitment to protect the Human Rights of its senior citizens.

These steps also safeguard the rights of the Older Persons as citizens mandated in the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution which states that “the State will extend support for financial security, health care and shelter for senior citizens and provide protection against abuse and exploitation”.

Specific areas of non-implementation

At the core of the problem is the non-implementation of the NPOP, MWPSCA, and IGNOAPS. The Central Government has directed the State Governments to adopt and operationalise these provisions, however they have largely ignored the issue by declaring a lack of resources. The situation is no better for schemes where the Central Government has allocated partial resources.

The following illustrate the above mentioned statements.

a) Though mandated in the National Policy on Older Persons no health security has been provided by most of the States / UT’s. In the absence of State subsidized health insurance, if a senior citizen falls ill, quality health care is unaffordable.
Today unaffordable health care costs are the major contributor to the poverty in our country as every year 2.1 % of population is pushed below poverty line due to unaffordable health care costs.

b) The status of adoption of NPOP by various states, even after 11 years of its promulgation by the Central Government is bleak; as only seven states, that is, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi have adopted NPOP.

c) The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (MWPSCA, 2007), largely remains on paper even after its enactment four years ago. This Act if implemented will give protection to the most vulnerable sections of senior citizens who are at risk of abandonment from their own family .But only 7 states have adopted it with fulfillment of two or three conditions out of the specified 5 conditions proposed in the Act.

d) The amount that is paid through the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) is a meagre Rs.200 from the Central Government. This provision is intended to provide monetary support to senior citizens who are Below Poverty Line and States are expected to match the grant of Rs.200 with an equal amount. Here too, the range between States in the share they provide is from Rs.800 to none at all. While Delhi & Goa are contributing Rs.800,the states of Haryana and Maharashtra are contributing Rs.500 and Rs.400 respectively but in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh there is no contribution by the state at all. In Andhra Pradesh it is claimed that the amount is being spent on the disabled population.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Nodal Ministry which is expected to co-ordinate and monitor the progress of the schemes as well as the setting up of an autonomous National Council of Older Person would do well to have a thorough introspection and take quick and appropriate remedial action urgently and immediately.

The Senior Citizen Associations including AISSCON & FESSCOM have over the years been lobbying with the Governments to highlight the non-implementation of provisions of the various Acts and Schemes. With the slow response forthcoming, it has been decided to observe a SOLIDARITY DAY ON 16TH AUGUST 2011 to make the respective State Governments aware that Older Persons in the country and state will not be taken for granted any longer. The Solidarity Day proceedings will be supported by 27 National, State and Local level organizations, NGO’s, Associations of Banks / Insurance companies, retired employees and will be observed over the entire country.

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences joins the Joint Action Committee in supporting this nationwide observation on 16th August 2011 as a National Solidarity Day and appeals to the media to highlight the gross injustice being meted out to Senior Citizens. Society as a whole shares equal responsibility for safeguarding the rights of older persons.

JAC Maharashtra Supporters:

3. International Longevity Center - India
4. Silver Inning Foundation
5. Harmony for Silvers Foundation
6. GIC Pensioners Association
7. The Family Welfare Agency
8. General Insurance Pensioners, All India Federation
9. Brihan Mumbai Pensioners Association
10. All India Bank Retirees Federation
11. Dignity Foundation
12. Help Age India
13. Indian Federation of Ageing
14. All India Retired Reserve Bank Employee Association
15. MTNL Pensioners Workers Associations
16. All India Central Government Pensioners Association
17. Brihan Mumbai Retired Employees Association
18. All India Retired Insurance Employees Federation
19. Alzheimer’s Related Disorder Society of India (ARDSI) , Greater Mumbai Chapter
20. Jeevan Adhar Seva Sanstha
21. Shree Ramanugrah Trust
22. Center for Life Long Learning , TISS
23. 1298 Senior Citizens Helpline

Centre for lifelong Learning
25525000 / 25525682/ 2552 5686 / 25525692
Website: www.tiss.edu
Blog: www.centreforlifelonglearningtiss.blogspot.com

10th August 2011
TISS ,Mumbai

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