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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

India washes hands of rights for the elderly

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 30, 2012
First Published: 23:30 IST(30/12/2012) | Last Updated: 02:05 IST(31/12/2012)

India, unlike its neighbours Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, remained undecided on a United Nations-sponsored international legal instrument to protect the "rights" and "dignity" of the older population - whose number is rapidly rising.

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Due to better health facilities, the number of older people in India will rise dramatically in the next four decades. According to advocacy group Agewell Foundation, the share of India's population aged 60 and older is projected to climb from about 100 million in 2010 to around 323 million by 2050 - higher than the total population of the US in 2012.

"This profound shift in the very limited old-age income support brings with it a variety of social, economic, and health care policy challenges," said Himanshu Rath of the foundation. As of now, the average life expectancy rate in India is 66.80 years. It was just 37 when India gained independence.

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To address the problem of rising population of elder citizens, the United Nations had set up working groups to look into the problems faced by senior citizens and suggest an over-arching legal instrument to provide them security in old age.

Based on the third working group report, the United Nations General Assembly recently adopted a resolution to have a legal instrument based on a holistic approach in the fields of social development, human rights and gender equality.

India, along with China, United States and Germany, were among the 118 countries that abstained from voting in favour of the resolution. However, neighbouring Sri Lanka and Bangladesh supported the resolution, which spoke on having uniform legal safeguards for the elderly across the world.

India, despite having several laws for the protection of older citizens, has failed to implement the legislations - resulting in many senior citizens having to suffer because of low income. This has happened because there is no law in India to conserve the human rights of elderly people.

An Agewell Foundation survey of about 50,000 elderly, released in August 2012, found that only 20% were aware of legal protection and its usage. Around three-fourth of the respondents were unsure about getting justice from the slow legal system.


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