Thursday, October 2, 2014




International Day of the Older persons is being observed on October,1st each year. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says, "Older persons make wide-ranging contributions to economic and social development. However, discrimination and social exclusion persist. We must overcome this bias in order to ensure a socially and economically active, secure and healthy ageing population."

The day is similar to National Grandparents Day in the United States and Canada as well as Double Ninth Festival in China and Respect for the Aged Day in Japan. UNO announces annual theses each year for the day. For 2014, the theme is, “ Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All”

Changing Composition of Population :

The composition of world population is changing dramatically. Between 1950 and 2010 life expectancy worldwide rose from 46 to 68 years, and is likely to increase to 81 by the end of the century.  At present women outnumber men by 66 million among those aged 60 years or over. Among those aged 80 years or over, women are nearly twice as numerous as men, and among centenarians women are between four and five times as numerous as men. For the first time in human history, in 2050, there will be more persons over 60 than children in the world. Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60.

New policies and programmes

Many Governments have designed innovative policies in the health, social security or welfare systems for the aged. Several policy framework documents, including national plans of action on ageing have been enacted. Specific age-related legislative measures in areas as varied as building codes, licensing and monitoring of care centres and vocational training have also begun to emerge. All levels of government, from local to national, have taken a share in this responsibility, and have either created new institutions or renewed existing ones to seek ways of gradually responding to the challenges faced by older persons.

Understanding Roles :

Some Governments have designed policies founded on the principle of active ageing and autonomy, aimed at facilitating the continuation of independent lives at home, with services and facilities that cater for various types of needs. Others emphasize family ties and support for the family unit as the primary source of care for older persons. In all cases, a network of private actors, including various volunteer organizations and community-based centres, are essential to the smooth functioning of the entire system.

The different circumstances that shape the lives of women and men in old age are the outcome of a lifetime of experience. Good health, economic security, adequate housing, an enabling environment, access to land or other productive resources, these are the fundamentals of ageing with dignity, yet achieving them depends on decisions and choices only partly determined by each individual. The impact of gender inequalities in education and employment becomes most pronounced in old age. As a result, older women are more likely than older men to be poor. Furthermore, older women often take on greater responsibilities for family care while managing inflexible working conditions, mandatory retirement ages and inadequate pensions and other social security benefits, which leave them, and those in their care, extremely vulnerable. 

The above details are largely taken from the UNO’s description of the measures being taken at UN and member states level. Many measures are being taken for the aged as per the Madrid  convention.

In India also, many welfare measures are taken for the aged persons both at Central and State Governments’ levels. That apart, many Old age Homes are coming up in cities and towns to care for those aged persons who , for some reason or other, are not taken care of by their progeny. These Old age Homes need both adequate support and monitoring.  There should be regulation and also assistance. The Good Samaritans who take the initiative to set up such homes should not be harassed unnecessarily by Law enforcing authorities, as it usually happens in many spheres of such private welfare activities. But, at the same time, there should be adequate safeguards that they really take care of the aged compassionately and do not misuse funds received.

Everybody ages. Everybody turns over 60. Everybody who lives beyond 60 goes on becoming less and less healthy, less and less capable of taking care of himself and more and more in need of physical and psychological help. What one single factor that can ensure this is – respect and compassion for the aged in the minds of the NOT-AGED. This can only be inculcated in the schools, by the teachers. But, unfortunately, current curriculum is bereft of all such social motivation. Consequently, respect and compassion for the aged is definitely on a downtrend in India, even though, Indian tradition contained great respect for the aged.

In India, traditionally, sons and Daughters-in-law together used to take care of the parents. In most families, parents used to have more than 2 children, with sons and daughters both, among the progeny. At least one son was preferred as he only has to take care of the parents, not because he will save from some sort of Hell, as popularly assumed. The daughter must integrate herself into the husband’s family and adopt his parents as her own parents. The system worked well. 

But the system degenerated due to various anomalies which crept into it. First, due to population explosion and economic compulsions, most families are now having one or two children only. Sometimes, the children may be either only 2 (or one) male or only 2 (or one) female in a family. In such cases, the question arises who should take care of the aged persons in each family. In some cases, the parents without sons face problems. In some cases, the daughters manage to keep out the parents-in-law and leave them to the lurch. Both are happening. Law and Tradition both need to change to take care of the changing situations. The present law and tradition are inadequate to tackle these changing social situations. 

Some Laws we have made are good in intent but bad in practice, like the Laws on dowry, domestic cruelty etc. These are good in intent. They are intended to protect a daughter in law who is subjected to cruelty by her husband or his family for the sake of dowry or other reasons. But, the changing economic and physical independence of young women and changing moralities are creating unacceptable situations in the implementation of this Law. Not only this, even the practice of this law in ordinary situations envisaged in the laws is BAD. It results nothing in good for either the daughter in law or the in-laws’ family members.

The idea of the Law must be to keep the family united and solve the problems of (a) the dowry or domestic abuse if real or (b)  the false and motivated complaints by the daughter-in-law, as is happening in many cases. Both must be addressed. In some cases, the daughter in law is well employed in a foreign country and falsely alleges harassment by parents in law, sisters-in-law etc who are residing in some village or town in India. Many such varied situations have been seen in recent past. But, Indian law is such that, our Police put the aged parents in law behind bars immediately. They don’t even get bail and suffer untold misery in the hands of the Law. 

All of our Indian Laws are actually paranoid on putting any and every accused behind bars the moment a complaint against them comes up. In most cases, there is absolutely no need for custody or interrogation of the accused by Police at all. What is needed is scientific Investigation, and quick trial in the court which are absent. In most cases, the state achieves absolutely nothing by the custody of most of the accused.

We have seen that in many cases, the accused are completely acquitted much later; But, who can compensate them for the custodial misery and torture that they underwent? Most of our laws need change in this respect. Police Custody must have adequate grounds. A mere complaint by a daughter in law must not be considered enough ground to jail a 70 year old person. These are bad laws, badly made and badly implemented. Dowry menace has to be taken care of.  But, Indian Police is just not the right institution to do that. A more imaginative and humane institution like the family court only must investigate such complaints.

Else, a Son’s marriage, especially a love marriage, is bound to send his parents into jittery and not into Joy, over the prospect of an unknown daughter in law, some time later falling out of love and sending them to Jail on a false complaint!!

Laws must change; People must change. We must create a society in which children, youth, middle aged and the old aged are all safe and protected till they breathe their last.

*  *  *  E  N  D  *  *  *

No comments:

Post a Comment