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Govt steps in to protect the elderly

Govt steps in to protect the elderly

The Government is working on a Bill which would deter people from abandoning their aged parents or mistreating the elderly.

New Delhi: The Government is working on a Bill which would deter people from abandoning their aged parents or mistreating the elderly.

The Government feels that the law is needed as there are over eight crore senior citizens in the country and the figure is likely to touch the 10-crore mark by 2016.

And many like 73-year-old Raj Chawdhery feel that they have not been given their due. "The people have become very selfish there days, there are no two ways about it," says Raj Chowdhery.

She would drop a hint here and there but would not tell us why she has decided to spend the remaining days of her life in an old age home near Delhi.

For Raj, the decision is a "family matter". However, she feels that there is an urgent need for a law to protect rights of the senior citizens.

It is this paradox which has pushed the Government to drop any penal provisions in the proposed law for the old-age people.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted the Bill and it has been sent to the other ministries for approval. It is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of the Parliament.

The law overrides different religious and personal laws in the country and universally applicable.

The Government has decided to set up tribunals in each district across the country to enforce this law. The proposed tribunals will also have powers to return the property to parents who had willed it to their chidren.

But in the absence of any penal provision, would this law be effective? There is an assumption here -- in a common Indian household, a matter like this reaching the tribunal would draw a lot of negetive publicity for the family and this itself would be a natural deterrent.

However, there is no deterrent for those who neglect their old parents. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar feels that taking the softer route could also work. "We are going to use the method of making attempts to reach a compromise or a reconciliation," she says.

The Government may be playing its part to protect the rights of the elderly, but many feel that the it needs to focus on social security schemes rather than laws to look after its aging citizens.

first published:June 10, 2006, 14:34 IST