All ye who don’t match up to the high standards set by the reigning ‘Best Child That Any Parent Could Ask For’ champion, Sravana Kumar (of the blind parents fame), be careful. Be very careful and start fanning your mum and giving your dad a nice back-rub. For, once the Social Justice Ministry gets an okay from the Cabinet, the Parents and Senior Citizen (Welfare and Maintenance) Bill, 2006, will come into play. Effectively that means that if you don’t take care of your parents — and ‘taking care’ can cover a pretty large definitional area — you could be hauled up by the authorities and sent to jail. Oh, and you will also run the risk of being cut off from the family property.
Filial relations in India have undergone major changes over the decades. Even if it is still largely the norm for adult children (mainly the sons) to take care of their elderly parents, not only do people expect more ‘privacy and space’, but their parents, too, have learnt to not be anguished about such arrangements.
If there are cases of ill-treatment of parents and senior citizens — and there are plenty that go unreported — these should fall under the purview of the general law that tackles physical and mental abuse. By slipping a law inside households, the State is not only overplaying its nanny role, but also seems to be preparing to wash its hands of senior citizen care altogether. What will it be next? A Teachers (Welfare and Attention) Bill by which students not paying attention in class will be sent to juvenile correctional facilities.