The traditional belief is that one’s own heaven starts at your parents’ feet, hence practicing Hindus are taught to bow and touch the feet of their parents from an early age. With the western influences on lifestyle, it seems that even the customary traditions are being eroded as is evident from the mushrooming of old-aged homes were senior citizens are abandoned by their own earning children while others are uncared for in their own home after retirement. Such cases are increasing day by day in the Indian society.
Recently, Tripura Law and Education Minister Tapan Chakraborty, on February 27, 2017 informed the state Assembly that number of cases being filed by parents against their earning children for not taking care of their maintenance is increasing in Tripura.
Chakraborty also informed that aged parents filed 55 cases in various courts in Tripura in the recent past, against their earning children, demanding maintenance costs. Most of the children against whom their parents filed cases are government employees.
The minister also said that under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, at least 1,907 cases were filed by women in various local courts in Tripura in the past three years.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar also added that the Tripura government has already set up seven all-women police stations, and four more all-women police stations would be set up soon to deal with the crimes against women.
Besides recruiting additional women police personnel and setting up of all-women police stations, the state government has taken a series of steps to check crime against women, informed Sarkar, who also holds the Home portfolio.
There are also cases from the state of Kerala where, the young children have sold off ancestral property to fund their lives abroad where they set up their own family, leaving the old parents in the street in shock and unable to come to terms with what has been done to them.
In the state of Meghalaya, it is not that only the children are being abandoned, particularly by the unwed youths, single parents or broken family, the old aged parents too are being forsaken and sent to social organizations and such cases are on the rise here too.
It may be recalled that, May 15 is the International Day of Families. This was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1992. The very goal of social integration is to bring all social groups, particularly vulnerable groups, and individuals into the political, social, cultural and economic structures of a society so that they can participate in the decision-making process and improve their access to opportunities.
As globally the international day of Families is observed, it is also appropriate for Meghalaya to introspect first the family structures in the state, and then socially and globally.
The motive of fostering of social integration goes hand in hand with promoting intergenerational solidarity, often defined as bonding between and among individuals in multigenerational family networks and among different age cohorts in the larger community. In practical terms, intergenerational solidarity relates to reciprocal care, support and exchange of material and non-material resources in families, typically younger, and older generations.
Trends impacting intergenerational relations are several demographic and socio-economic changes such as population ageing, increased mobility and migration, rapid urbanization and break-up of traditional extended family structures. This poses numerous challenges to social integration and intergenerational solidarity. Such trends present new demands on family members and test the grandparent-parent-youth-child relationships.
Among those demands is the rising cost of caring for older dependants often negatively impacting families’ employability, productivity as well as savings ability. Moreover, changing living arrangements have resulted in older persons living alone, in skipped generation households, or in institutionalized settings. On the other hand, with growing unemployment disproportionately affecting youth, young people may need to depend on their parents or grandparents for material support or housing provision longer than before.
Despite these challenges, research indicates that in both developed and developing countries, family bonds remain strong and family members assist one another through financial support and care with many surveys pointing to the fact that older people are more likely to provide support to younger generations.
What’s more, in many countries, it is grandparents who are often day care providers for young children when their own parents are at work. They may even assume the role of near-custodial grandparents, where grandchildren reside with them while parents’ migrate in search of jobs. Skipped generations are not uncommon in many regions, where orphaned children, often due to HIV/AIDS, are in permanent care of their grandparents.
Coming back to Meghalaya, the society is absorbing too many broken families, single parent families, and yet another section is the children from the inter-caste marriages. Each have their own hurdles to get their respective feet grounded.
International families’ movement is making an attempt to have the societies which are more tolerant, respect the cultural diversity, and most importantly have the integrated society, which is the need of the hour in Meghalaya.
Besides this, the social organization, the traditional institutions, and religious institutions and of course the educational institutions have a great role to play in this regard. Let May 15, this year, spark the flame for striving towards Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity. Hopefully every earning child will also take care of their parents as they take care of their respective career and family, because the aged after completing their respective duties during their youth now need the attention of the children they natured and cared for to take care of them now.