The Centre will make it mandatory for states to set up tribunals to help senior citizens abandoned by their families. The tribunals will have the power to direct families of senior citizens to pay them a maintenance allowance.
A bill pending in parliament since March provides for the creation of such tribunals. But the bill left it to states’ good sense to constitute the tribunals. This open-endedness had led to criticism that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill may not make a difference to the lives of the elderly if state governments do not demonstrate the initiative.
Last week, Meira Kumar, minister for social justice and empowerment, moved the Union cabinet to address this concern. “The amendments cleared by the cabinet make it incumbent on the state governments to set up the tribunals within six months of the law coming into force,” a senior government official told Hindustan Times.
"The official amendments will be moved in the Lok Sabha when the legislative proposal is taken up for passage, in all likelihood during the ongoing Winter Session," the official said.
Kumar told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that the legislation will ensure that even if parents have not reached the age of 60, their children who are economically well off will be under a legal obligation to take care of them.
"These kinds of initiatives are long overdue. The elderly need all kinds of support they can get, legislative, administrative, financial and legal but the society too needs to play a more active role," said Himanshu Rath, who founded the Delhi-headquartered Agewell Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that handles nearly 25,000 calls daily from the elderly at its helplines across the country. Nearly 10 per cent of the calls are from senior citizen complaining about their children neglecting them.