The Supreme Court of India has directed the Centre and States to revisit the grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more “realistic”. The Order passed on December 13, 2018 also stated that the schemes which are “comparatively dated” should be re-looked and overhauled to bring about convergence and avoid multiplicity, such that senior citizens should get a meaningful pension to live with dignity, and not just the equivalent of Rs 92 at current value.
The apex court said the State was “obligated to ensure” that the right to live with dignity that includes reasonable shelter, health care, clothing and meaningful pension for elderly people without any means was not only protected but are enforced and made available to all citizens.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Lokur said there cannot be any excuse of lack of finances either by the Central or State governments in strictly implementing the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
It may be reminded that earlier, three states had also made it mandatory for the children to take care of their old parents. In an unprecedented move, the Manipur Government has resolved to take legal action against government officials or employees found to have abandoned their parents. The statement was made by the Chief Minister; N Biren Singh following complaints from aged parents on being abandoned by children while speaking on the occasion of International Day of Older Persons at Khuman Lampak Imphal on October 1, 2018. The chief minister said one cannot succeed without the blessings of his or her parents.
Manipur is not the first to take this step. It may be reminded that Indian civilization is one of the world’s oldest practicing cultures; the poignant life of Shravan Kumar- mythological character depicted in Ramayana, the son of Shantanu and Gyanvanti, had devoted his life to serving his sick and aged parents, who were both blind. He carried the kavad (a sling) on his shoulder and they left on a pilgrimage is the greatest devotion toward his parents.
The present day society on the other hand is abusing or abandoning the old, either for career or nuclear family which is on the rise.
Such increasing instances led the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government led by Narendra Damodardas Modi to propose Senior Citizen bill with harsher punishments for those who abuse or abandon parents.
If the Modi government has its way, the new draft bill suggests strengthening the punishment for those found guilty of abusing and abandoning their parents at old age. The draft bill also proposes to enhance the jail term from the existing three months to six months for the offence.
The Centre on May 9, 2018 proposed to amend the existing Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 to extend its scope and ensure that the basic needs of senior citizens are met. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted the new bill, titled: The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Draft bill, 2018.
The draft bill also changed the definition of children. As per the amendment one, the ‘Children’ include son or daughter (all biological, adopted or step), son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandson, granddaughter and a minor.
The bill has also changed the definition of ‘Maintenance’. Now, it includes provision for food, clothing, medical attendance, treatment, safety, housing and security.
The draft bill also proposes to make the maintenance amount variable as those individuals earning more salary or amount have to provide a higher amount for the maintenance of their parents. If an individual failed to provide the amount then he or she has to face a punishment of one-month imprisonment. Currently, the upper limit of maintenance amount is Rs 10,000 a month.
The bill mandates the uniform age across all government and private schemes for insurance, health, housing and travel should be 60 years. The bill also mandates that if the children or legal heir failed to provide support to their parents then the transfer of property will be deemed as “made by fraud or coercion or under the undue influence”. In such circumstances, the tribunal can order it to be transferred back to the parent or guardian.
It may be reminded that Assam Assembly on September 15, 2017 passed an extraordinary Bill making it mandatory for all state government employees to take care of their parents and needy siblings, or face a cut in their income. Assam is the first state to approve such legislation in the country, naming the Bill – Assam Employees Parental Responsibility And Norms for Accountability and Monitoring (PRANAM) Bill which was passed unanimously, with almost all the ruling and opposition MLAs backing it.
The bill was introduced in the House by Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. While moving the Bill he pointed out on the Floor of the August House that although parents are equated with Gods in Indian society, with the emerging modern society, increased mobility and growth of nuclear families, there have been reports of instances of negligence of dependent parents by their children.
He stressed that the parents or needy siblings who feel neglected can lodge complaints with the head of the department of the person who are posted, after hearing both sides, may deduct 10-15 percent of the salary of the employee and give it to the parents for their survival.
Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami said it was one of the most progressive Bills to be passed by the House.
Assam indeed is leading the way when it comes to the social security of the Aged, but India along with the rest of the nations do observed December 1 as International Day of Older Persons. The Focal Point on Ageing is located in the Social Integration Branch of the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of DESA within the United Nations Secretariat.
Here in Meghalaya, where parents are considered the core of the family, where in the matrilineal society, the youngest daughter, who inherits the ancestor property, is supposed to take care of the parents, yet in the old age homes here too one can find abandoned aged people, including the parents of the government employees.
Here in Meghalaya, many retired employees of the state government have to seek private jobs to make ends meet as their children refuse to provide them proper security.
Most of the younger generation here, who are either career oriented and business motivated, have no time for their parents and also their children. They feel that once they manage to provide the necessities of the daily chores and all modern gadgets, they have completed their duties. Hence, most of the aged and the children are left to fend for themselves in the midst of their children losing all human emotions and getting themselves enslaved to the modern technologies.
One needs to take a look at the government hospitals and public health centres across Meghalaya to see how most of the aged parents are being neglected by their career oriented children. At the same time even their own children are left to the maid-servant to take care. Meghalaya too should adopt similar bill of PRANAM for the security of the aged parents in the state.