The state government has proposed to bring the age of senior citizens down from 65 years to 60 years. This would mean 30 lakh more people under the senior citizen category, taking the total number of beneficiaries to 1.30 crore.
As part of its senior citizen policy, the social justice department has proposed a separate department and comissionerate for senior citizens to effectively implement the policy, which is expected to be brought before the cabinet in a week of two.
The policy has comprehensive provisions for senior citizens such as senior citizen-friendly cities, seat reservation and concession in public transport, priority in public clinics and hospitals, special centres for those suffering from memory loss and special amusement centres.
RD Shinde, secretary, social justice department, said: "The policy will give the provisions a legal framework as the government would make mandatory provisions by amending various existing laws. If required, the government would also promulgate exclusive law for effective implementation of the policy."
Shailesh Mishra of Silver Innings Foundation and a member of the committee appointed to draft the policy said: "After the Centre passed the policy in 1999, all states were supposed to pass it within six months. We are late by 14 years, but nonetheless I am happy the government is bringing it."
The policy also has a provision with special emphasis on treatment of Alzheimer and Dementia as a large number of senior citizens suffer from these ailments. As many as 3.25 lakh senior citizens in the state suffer from memory loss.
"There had been resistance from various departments to bring the age limit to 60 from 65, as the burden towards various benefits would be huge. State transport would have to bear a burden of nearly Rs. 200 crore, while the burden towards old-age pension scheme would be Rs. 125 crore. We have proposed to bring down the age to 60, but it is up to the cabinet now to decide," said an officer from Mantralaya, on condition of anonymity.
The policy also has provisions for setting up day-care centres in various districts and cities.
"The centres would have various activities for the elderly persons," the officer said.
"Similarly, the policy also has provisions of special cells at police stations and a dedicated state-wide helpline for elderly persons. Police stations would be compelled to prepare a list of senior citizens in their jurisdiction and keep meeting the elderly on a regular basis to ensure their safety."