The pain of being abandoned by their families may never go away, but such elderly parents and grandparents will at least have a roof over their heads or be assured of financial aid when a soon-to-be introduced bill is implemented.
The government in this budget session will shortly bring in the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill 2006 that will make negligence and abandonment of parents or grandparents by their successors an offence.
The bill, when it becomes an act, will make it obligatory for the local police station to maintain a record of all senior citizens residing in its jurisdiction so as to provide maximum security to them.
It will also enjoin the area station house officer or in-charge of the police post to provide maximum security to every lone senior citizen or lonely couple residing in his jurisdiction in such a manner as may be prescribed.
In addition, it seeks to establish and maintain sufficient number of senior citizens' homes at conspicuous places in the country in consultation with the state governments and union territory administrations concerned and provide all necessary facilities in such homes as may be prescribed.
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill 2006 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on March 3, 2006, and then sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for its consideration and comments. Based on the recommendations of the Standing Committee, the Bill was approved by the Union Cabinet for passage in this session of Parliament.
The Business Advisory Committee of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have not yet decided the dates by which the bill will be introduced in Parliament, said an official of the parliamentary affairs ministry.
The reasons for bringing in the bill, the document states, is that Census 2001 puts the number of senior citizens in the country at 76,622,321 and their population is growing very fast and by the year 2016 the population of senior citizens will be more than 10 per cent of the total population of the nation.
In case of non-compliance of the provisions of the act, a first class magistrate will be empowered to proceed against the person committing neglect or refusal to maintain his father or mother or both.
Under the act, the magistrate may prescribe the maintenance of his father or mother or both, as the case may be, and order the successors to pay the same to such a senior citizen.
Before making an order the magistrate will consider the average income, property or joint family property income of the person against whom the maintenance order has to be passed; the standard of living of the family; and any other matter which, in the circumstances, the magistrate may consider relevant.
The Bill makes all indigent or abandoned senior citizens or those neglected by their kith, referred to by the state government concerned, eligible to be kept in senior citizens' homes.
Apart from the facilities of day-to-day life, the homes shall also provide means of entertainment and such recreational facilities that may help the senior citizens residing in such homes to overcome their distress at being indigent or being neglected by their kith and kin.
Every abandoned and indigent senior citizen recommended thus by the state government will get Rs 1,000 per month as financial assistance for his subsistence by the state government in whose jurisdiction the senior citizen ordinarily resides and the financial assistance payable to such citizens shall be linked with the cost of living index so as to ensure a decent living to the senior citizens; but financial assistance shall not be given to those senior citizens who are availing of the facility of senior citizens' homes, says the proposed Bill.
The appropriate government shall also provide to every senior citizen — (a) free medical treatment in government hospitals and dispensaries or other dispensaries, nursing homes and clinics recognised by the concerned government; (b) free travel facilities by public transport and concessions in private owned transport; (c) free pilgrimages within the country, pilgrimage to Mansarovar and Haj in such manner as may be prescribed; (d) facilities for yoga and other sports; (e) interest-free loans for housing and self-employment purposes.