Children who abandon their parents or elderly relatives will face a three-month jail term.
Parliament enacted a law on Thursday giving India’s 8.1 crore elderly citizens a legal safety net. The law makes taking care of the elderly in the family a legal, and not just moral, obligation for generation next and empowers the government to force children to pay their elders a maintenance allowance.
Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar said the legislation would create a network of maintenance tribunals throughout the country that would decide pleas from parents and senior citizens within six months of notification. The legislation also requires the government to set up old age homes for the destitute.
After the Lok Sabha had passed the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill on Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha gave its approval on Thursday.
But nearly every member who spoke said it was with a heavy heart that he or she was supporting the Bill. One, a former IPS officer, even broke down.
“What kind of a life is this? It is an embarrassing state that in a country like ours, an elder will now have to resort to a legal recourse for living,” said wheelchair-bound BJP member Gyan Prakash Pilania, 75, as tears welled up in his eyes.
Many blamed the education system for failing to imbibe values in the younger generation. As member after member decried the younger generation, Ekanath Thakur (Shiv Sena) said it was “unfortunate” that there was a need to enact a law for what should have been obvious but it was wrong to paint the entire younger generation with the same brush.
Ninety per cent of children do take care of their elders, only maybe five per cent don’t, Thakur said, saying that he probably was not able to speak as vehemently as some other members as he was orphaned when he was just two. “I did not have that benefit”.