For a majority of senior citizens in Delhi, the enemy is not some criminal who takes advantage of their vulnerability to rob or murder them. It’s the enemy within.
Bal Mukund Sharma, 78, had to fight for over three years with his son to win the right to live in the house that he built for his family. His son used to beat him up in the hope of grabbing his father’s property.
Sharma is not alone.
One in five senior citizens in Delhi face abuse by their family members, mostly by daughter-in-law and sons. According to a report by HelpAge India, as many as 20% elders from Delhi and 23% across India said they had experienced abuse.
The NGO, that also runs a helpline for the elderly, claims most of the calls they receive in Delhi are about harassment by the family over property disputes. “On an average, we receive 20-22 calls every day. Most of them are about a son or a daughter trying to grab the property. Sometimes it is only emotional but when it turns physical, we coordinate with police and take the relatives to the court,” said Mathew Cherian, CEO, HelpAge India.
The report found that as many as 70% of the respondents who admitted facing abuse did not report the matter. “Maintaining confidentiality of family matters” was a major reason behind not reporting abuse (for 33% among them), followed by “fear of retaliation” (for 39%).
Many did not report abuse as they “did not know how to deal with the problem”. The most common forms of abuse experienced by the elderly were disrespect (41%), verbal abuse (32%). As many as 27% faced physical abuse, including beating/slapping.
The son is the main perpetrator of abuse (34%), followed by the daughter-in-law (24%).
Police statistics show 63 senior citizens had been murdered and 27 were robbed in various parts of the capital in the past three-and-a-half years. “Apart from having a senior citizen cell at the police headquarters, we directed the district police to visit senior citizens living in the area regularly. Last year, 265,339 visits were conducted and 170,208 phone calls were made,” said a senior police officer.