The Kalkaji case: Senior citizens’ programmes alone can’t ensure their safety | analysis | Hindustan Times
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The Kalkaji case: Senior citizens’ programmes alone can’t ensure their safety

Our modern day society is such that we have no time for people who are offline. If you cut yourself off from people, they ultimately will not bother you. And once your resources and skills are compromised, it is impossible to come out

analysis Updated: Oct 12, 2016 14:25 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
Our modern day society is such that we have no time for people who are offline. If you cut yourself off from people, they ultimately will not bother you. And once your resources and skills are compromised, it is impossible to come out
Our modern day society is such that we have no time for people who are offline. If you cut yourself off from people, they ultimately will not bother you. And once your resources and skills are compromised, it is impossible to come out(Hindustan Times)

The Delhi Police on Tuesday found a 90-year-old man, Govind Ram Jethani, living with the decomposing corpse of his dead wife in Kalkaji, south Delhi. He was living with the maggot-infested corpse for four days before he came out of their home of 42 years and asked a neighbour for help. Police arrived after the neighbour’s call and found that the women had died of natural causes, though people who knew the childless couple in the neighbourhood suspect malnourishment killed her.

This is not the first of such cases we have heard of. In January 2015, the Kolkata police found a man living with the body of his elder sister and the bodies of two of his dogs — all reduced to skeletons — for the a few months.

Read: Only 2 government-run old age homes for over 18 lakh senior citizens

The Delhi Police has a senior citizen cell and its primary objectives include: coordinate safety and security of senior citizens with the help of area police; monitoring of senior citizens and encouraging them to join social engagements.

But none of this seemed to have worked/was made available to the Jethanis.

Read: At life’s fag end, they struggle to remain sane

“The Delhi Police’s senior citizen scheme doesn’t work because the programme is a passive one. By this I mean that old people have to register themselves with the police first and only then they can avail the services,” Himanshu Rath, founder of Agewell Foundation told HT. There are 15-16 lakh old people in Delhi alone and 10-12% live on their own. But the registration is for only about 7,000-10,000. “But then how much can the police do… our citizen-policemen ratio is abysmal”.

Read: Kin wants NGO to look after 90-yr-old man living with dead wife in Kalkaji

The problem, Rath said, was there is complete lack of awareness about old age and the challenges it brings. “Unlike the West, in India many in the aged population have not seen their parents live that long… so they have no recollection of how physical and mental challenges can be tackled…these things we learn by watching others,” Rath said. “Plus, as individuals, these days we internalise everything and don’t socilaise or invest in building links in the community. This works against us when we need help, as we have seen in the Kalkaji case”.

In an interview on Tuesday to HT, Dr Samir Parikh, director, Mental Health and Behavourial Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, had a similar diagnosis: “Our modern day society is such that we have no time for people who are offline. If you cut yourself off from people, they ultimately will not bother you. And once your resources and skills are compromised, it is impossible to come out”.

@kumkumdasgupta