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Abandonment during Sunset Years

Written by: Bharat S. Kumar - The author is a law student, pursuing his legal studies from Amity Law School, Delhi(GGSIP University Affiliate)
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“The idea is to die young as late as possible”

A majority of people would well desire to live life this way, but it is sad to know that only a few fortunate ones do live and die in this manner. Old age is said to be a period full of gold and glory, provided the elderly are helped and not left alone to perish.

Lately, I had read a story which I would definitely want to narrate. The tale went on something like this. A rich family was living with their two children, one an infant, and the other being a little over four years when their elderly grandparents suddenly came to live with them as they were gaining in on years and well needed the desired help and attention. The elderly couple couldn’t quite cope with the fast moving lives of their children and besides they were in bad health too. The father’s hands would quiver even when he tried to do any of his work and the mother, with her deteriorating vision, would end up breaking things while bumping into them. So after some deliberation, the couple decided that the elderly of the house would stay in one dingy, dirty room all day, until called upon. One Sunday evening, after the couple had come back from some socializing, they saw their young child busy drawing something with the instruments of his drawing set .The couple were happy that the child was busy all this while when they were away, when suddenly their attention drew onto the drawing that the child had made. The child didn’t quite allow their parents to see the drawing as it wasn’t quite complete.

After much coaxing though, he finally let on. He was working on the sketch of his own house. A palatial house, much like the present one, having over five rooms. But it also did have one dingy, dark room for his parents. The parents were astounded by the child’s behaviour, but they certainly got the answer. This was not the way they should have treated their parents. What they were doing was merely a vicious circle as this was what his son was thinking of doing to them when they would grow old. Parents are invaluable and there is no other bigger asset than having them around.

In a recent survey, it was stated that there are over 90 million old people in our country and this would well reach 100 million in a very short span of time . Also that in 2005, the United States reported that 1.7% of their population i.e. about 5 Million people were well over the age of 85 years. With such a massive number of people over an age of 60 years, only a few are stated to have adequate amenities even at this age. There are predictions that there would be around 1.2 billion people by 2025 and 2 billion people by the year 2050.

Conventional norms and beliefs of our society lay stress on providing due care and attention to the elderly. There are incidents such as a lady being hacked to death in her home wherein the murder was solely committed for money. The treacherous murder conceivably occurred because of her living alone for her children had deserted her. The altering face of relationships among the family members are creating uncertainty in the mind of the elderly for their care. Also, due to rapid liberation of people from the idea of a joint family system, a large number of elderly are not being looked after by their family,which was well considered a requisite for family members in the olden days. One of the plights of the senior citizens of today is that they have children who live far and away. The care of the elderly as an quintessential part of the social and cultural values is also thus losing its importance.

The senior citizens constitute a precious reservoir of such human force as it is gifted with knowledge of varied sorts, plethora of experiences and a wondrous foresight. They are not broken but are merely weak. Despite them having receded from the daily chores of work, still many of them are physically fit which still makes them an incredible workforce. Hence, given an appropriate opportunity, they are in a position to make significant contribution to the socio-economic development of their nation.

Conversely, many older people, particularly widowed women are now forced to spend their twilight years all alone and are divulged to emotional neglect and to lack of physical and financial support. This clearly reveals that ageing has become a major social challenge and there is a need to give more attention to the care and protection for the elderly.

Looking into this, the legislators came up with various legislations, before which, bills like Destitute and needy Senior Citizens (care, protection and welfare) Bill, 2005, Needy and neglected Senior Citizens and Orphans and Runaway Children (care and rehabilitation and welfare) Bill,2005, Destitute, Abandoned and Neglected Widows and Old Women (welfare and rehabilitation) Bill, 2007, Destitute, Indigent and Neglected Citizens (maintenance and welfare) Bill, 2007 were said to have been introduced with some serious thought before they were rejected to formulate an Act.

The only one, which was finally passed and was said to have included relevant laws for the maintenance of and the aged was in 2007, it being The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and senior Citizens Act. Although, before it the Constitution under Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 41 directs the state to make adequate laws, ways and means to thereby protect the elderly,still there was not adequate protection given. Though, laws present in The Criminal Procedure Code, The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, and The Himachal Pradesh Maintenance of Parents and Dependents Act do have specific mention for the maintenance and care of senior citizens, but still there was a need for a wholesome law to be present, which therefore, according to the researcher was almost achieved in the maintenance act so passed in 2007.

The concept of maintenance for the aged emphasizes on the fact that the people who are old should be bestowed with ample rights and should be empowered substantially by the law to fight well for their subsistence, which over a period of time has withered away due to the acts of the next generation. Also that the aged being weak and frail physically need more care and attention from their loved ones. The United States recently had a survey and segregated the details of people well over 85 years so that adequate care and specific attention could be given to the elderly of the country.

The idea of maintenance has a two fold perspective. Firstly, it is the most apt form of granting financial independence to the old parents and senior people and, secondly, it provides the senior citizens a much needed sense of liberty and also grants them the power to live not bowed down before their children, but independently and with elegance.

Also, with the inception of the apposite Act though brought in 2007 for the Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens, i.e. The Maintenance and Welfare Of Parents and Senior Citizens Act,2007, the security of the elderly have rest been assured.

A few salient features of the act are:
# The Act aims to make it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens. It also permits state governments to establish old age homes in every district.
# A senior citizen who is unable to maintain himself due to his/her financial inadequacy shall have the right to apply to a maintenance tribunal for a monthly allowance from their child or from a person who would thus be benefitted as him being a legal heir. 
# The Act, makes it mandatory for such a person, with the intervention of the law, to award the parent, senior citizen an amount to a maximum of Rupees ten thousand per month.
# If the aged is incapable of filing the application on his own, he may authorize any other person or registered voluntary association to apply on his behalf. The maintenance tribunal may also, on its own, initiate the process for maintenance, but the person cannot be a legal practitioner. 
# The state government may also establish the said needed number of maintenance tribunals, so needed in every sub-division.
With the naissance of such an Act, the legislature has sought to have taken adequate care, which inturn would safeguard the rights of the elderly to the optimum. However, there still lie a few grey areas. They should be worked upon so that they no longer hamper the apt functioning of the Act. It is though opined that as time progresses, there would be a complete code substantial in all aspects to safeguard the interests of this assailable section of the society.

1. The Constitution of India, 1950
2. The Maintenance and Welfare Of Parents and senior Citizens Act, 2007.

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