When octogenarian Kapuri Devi was found abandoned at the Kanpur railway station on August 18, many took her to be mentally unstable. None had any idea that the frail, hapless woman was the owner of 20 bighas of land in Jharkhand.
But she evidently had a story to tell. A story of deceit where she was sweet talked into transferring her property by her own son-in-law.
“He told me that he would be able to take care of the property better. I agreed for the sake of my daughter. His behavior changed after that. Soon I was forced to board a train that has brought me here. I was used, then abused and subsequently thrown out,” Kapuri told curious onlookers, some of whom alerted an NGO for the elderly which got her into an old age home.
That may be Jharkhand but such incidents aren’t an oddity in UP either, which houses nearly 1.5 crore of the approximately 10 crore senior citizens across the country. In fact, it is worse.
A recent survey carried out in 20 states by HelpAge, an NGO for the elderly, has revealed that after Madhya Pradesh and Assam, UP stands third among states from where maximum abuse of the elderly is being reported.
The good news, however, is that the situation may not stay that way for long. The Samajwadi Party (SP) government in UP is set to adopt the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007.
A senior official of the social welfare department said chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had issued directions to implement the Act in UP at the earliest after making necessary provisions like setting up old age homes and tribunals across the state. A committee under the chief secretary is being set up to work out the modalities.
“One big USP of this act adopted by UP is that henceforth it won’t be very easy for children to ill treat their elders after getting property transferred in their name. The act very clearly says that if senior citizens feel cheated by their children, the transfer of property could well be declared void,” said a senior official of the state’s social welfare department. The provisions of the Act provide a security cover to elderly persons through various schemes and measures, which among other things also provide for maintenance to parents and grandparents in case their children refuse to take care of them.
“Under the Act, UP would be setting up maintenance tribunals with judicial powers and an appellate tribunal, besides providing for appointment of a maintenance officer in each district,” said AK Singh, director HelpAge (UP and Uttarakhand).
“This is a very important and useful Act for senior citizens and needs to be implemented quickly. One thing that UP could incorporate is that since daughters have been legally entitled to take care of their parents, there is a need to incorporate changes in the entitlement for reimbursement of medical expense incurred for parents. Daughters should be allowed for medical reimbursement to encourage married daughters and their family to take care of their parents,” said Singh.