The government is set to toughen laws dealing with the abuse of old people as part of a new national policy this year.
The draft National Policy on Senior Citizens, 2016, will also lay emphasis on good and affordable healthcare for the elderly by making public health services and health insurance more accessible. The plan is to make punishment for violations under the Indian Penal Code and the law for the maintenance and welfare of elders more stringent, but details weren’t immediately available.
“The policy also (provides for) assisted living devices for senior citizens living Below the Poverty Line and afflicted with age-related disabilities so that they can live independent and productive lives,” said an official of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
“Crimes and violence against senior citizens are on the rise and under the new policy, protective services would be established and linked to helplines, legal aid and other measures.”
Some 50% of India’s 100 million old people, or those above the age of 60 years, are abused, says a 2014 survey by HelpAgeIndia, a non-profit organisation working for the rights of senior citizens.
In India, a breakdown of the traditional family support system and absence of state support are increasingly leaving the elderly to fend for themselves. Newspapers regularly report beatings of and fraud against senior citizens as well as instances of murder of elderly people, often over property disputes.
“According to the 2014 data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), more than 1000 elderly people were murdered followed by other crimes like cheating, robbery, etc,” the ministry official told Hindustan Times.
Much of the blame for the disintegration of the multi-generational joint family system is put on the changing ethos in a fast-modernising country. Rising costs and modern aspirations have seen adult children marry and move into their own high-rise apartments that only fit their nuclear family.
Sometimes young job seekers are forced to leave behind their joint families. Fewer than 40% of 1.2 billion Indians now live in such extended family systems.
The new policy — which would replace the existing National policy on Older Persons (NOPO) 1919 — also proposes to tweak the government’s ‘Housing for All’ plans to facilitate “dignified living” for senior citizens.
It also aims to encourage community-based care for the elderly by using paid-for services run by women’s self-help groups.
Training of caregivers for senior citizens will be aligned with the government’s ongoing National Skill Development Programme.