Security for the seniors

The government should look after senior citizens and provide them with social security. Elected civic groups of men and women, with the help of panchayati raj bodies, the law and doctors, should come forward to serve the elderly, says Triloki Das Khandelwal

NOW that the elections to state assemblies are over, the new democratic governments should plan and work for the implementation of the promises made. Some of these might have been made as a part of the electoral campaign. But now when some of these representatives have occupied seats of power and others are sitting in the Opposition, they should realise that democracy is a game in which they should show sportsman’s spirit. The rivals at the hustings should now join hands to serve the people.

Most senior citizens do not enjoy financial or social security
Most senior citizens do not enjoy financial or social security. The state should come to their rescue
Photo: Vinay Malik

The victory of the Congress in Delhi, Rajasthan and Mizoram, and that of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh proves that the voter appreciates good work. Those who talk of caste equations and heredity have a place only in the dustbin of history. People want results and political honesty. The old and the poor need social security. The Congress and the BJP have promised this. The welfare of senior citizens is high on their agendas.

All political parties have promised old age pension for the elderly. A minimum pension of Rs 500 for every eligible senior citizen above the age of 65 is the consensus. But the state governments will have to identify every eligible senior citizen in villages and towns of the country. The best way to go about the task is to take the help of panchayati raj bodies. The gram sabhas or panchayats should identify these senior citizens without any family support or regular income. Their bank account papers should be processed by the panchayat officials along with district administrators. The banks may also send reports of these operations to the office of the District Collector. He should have the ultimate administrative responsibility to disburse funds and transfer the balance to the treasury in the event of death or disappearance of the person concerned.

Similarly, the electoral representatives in all constituencies should be given the responsibility of running day care centres and mobile medical check-up units for geriatric care of senior citizens. This would mean adequate budgetary allocations. The political leaders should nourish their constituencies with voluntary donations. NGOs should also be activised and elected civic groups of men and women should come forward to serve the seniors and, thereby, prepare for a more effective career in politics at all levels.

The majority of winners this time has been youngsters. New faces have swept the polls and new additions to the electoral rolls have changed the profiles of political parties in the fray. All the political parties today need a sincere introspection. They should note that they are losing their roots, and they may face extinction if they depend too much on the leadership of their high commands only.

Similarly, the high commands should also realise that gone are the days when ‘dummy candidates’ could win. Today political parties can ill-afford to choose anybody on the biddings of their so-called ‘masters’. The future of democratic politics in India depends heavily on party managers. They should work in the field for all five years, and that, too, at the grass-root level.

Young political workers can serve the elderly with dedication. This class of citizens is under severe stress these days. The era of development will add to the number of these citizens. As the family system gets disintegrated because of the mobility of the younger generation, these venerable seniors will increasingly look to the state or society for their survival as well as welfare.

Owing to a massive increase in population and fast disintegration of the joint family system, not only has the number of senior citizens risen up tremendously, massive urbanisation has added to the misery of this hapless lot. Most of them did not plan their old age security while they were young, and today when their families have deserted them, they are lonely, diseased and depressed. Diabetes, arthritis, heart and kidney ailments are common, and most of them cannot afford even a primary medical check-up. Unlike in the West, they cannot opt for old age marriage, and many of them do not have even attendants to carry them to hospital, or even to the cremation ground.

The state, society, law and doctors should come to the rescue of these weak and infirm people. Ageing is a natural phenomenon, and advancing years cripple all in all societies without any exception and discrimination. Men, women, rich, poor, rural, urban—all have to protect themselves against the ravages and ailments of age. It is a necessary evil but science has come to our rescue.

Today wrinkled faces can smile. Relevant laws are needed to help and protect senior citizens. The young legislators should go and work with these senior people. Their problems need to be solved with the joint efforts of the state, society and philanthropic individuals. At the initial stage of this urban change, several bold and innovative measures are needed. All the legislators sitting on Treasury Benches or in the Opposition need precious inputs in the policy-making exercise. Let this network of service for the seniors spread to rural and urban constituencies of the panchayati raj so that we can restructure our traditional society of the past in tune with the changing aspirations of our children, who will be raised in a new family framework of the future.

The writer is the secretary-general, Social Security Foundation, Jaipur