Analysis of The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007: Special Reference to Bihar

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INTRODUCTION

In India with majority of its population aged less than thirty, the problems and issues of its grey population has not been given serious consideration and only a few studies on them have been attempted in our country. To reap the advantage of demographic dividend, the focus is mainly on the fulfillment of basic needs of children and the youth for proper development. Also the traditional Indian society and the age-old joint family system have been instrumental in safeguarding the social and economic security of the elderly people in the country. However, with the rapid changes in the social scenario and the emerging prevalence of nuclear family set-ups in India in recent years the elderly people are likely to be exposed to emotional, physical and financial insecurity in the years to come. This has drawn the attention of the policy makers and administrators at central and state governments, voluntary organizations and civil society.

Now, the rapid changes in the social scenario and the emerging prevalence of nuclear family set-ups in India has created an issue of elder abuse. The “Negative Effect” observed in man and rapid increasing world has lead to an increase in urbanization. Excess money has pushed the youngsters in modern culture. Modification in the organization of work, change in the work places also affects the family as people compete in the role of economic actors. They are required to be flexible and they spent long hours on the job hence they are not compatible with family life which affected the family values.

The emerging problem of elderly abuse lead to the forming of a new policy in the respective field. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 20 March, 2007 and had been referred by Hon’ble Speaker to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment for examination and report on 27 April, 2007. The objective of the Bill is to provide for more effective provisions for the maintenance and welfare of Parents as well as Senior Citizens, which are guaranteed and recognized under the Constitution and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The most important provision of the Bill is to make the maintenance of parents by their family as a legal right. Appropriate mechanism is to be set up to provide need-based maintenance to the parents and senior citizens.

  • The Bill proposes to provide for:
  1. Providing better medical facilities to senior citizens.
  2. For institutionalization of a suitable mechanism for protection of life and property of older persons.
  3. Setting up of old age homes in every district.

However, the basic lacuna of this Act lies with the unawareness of this Act. This Act was framed by the Central Government in 2007 and it took 5 years to implement this Act in Bihar. The people are heedless when it come sto this Act and are unable to acknowledge or enforce this right.

ELDER ABUSE

The abuse of elderly by family members dates back to ancient times. Until the advent of initiatives to address child abuse and domestic violence in the last quarter of the 20th century, it remained a private matter, hidden from public view. Initially seen as a social welfare issue and subsequently a problem of ageing, abuse of the elderly, like other forms of family violence, has developed into a public health and criminal justice concern. These two fields – public health and criminal justice – have therefore dictated to a large extent how abuse of the elderly is viewed, how it is analysed, and how it is dealt with. The focus of the article is on abuse of older people by family members or others known to them, either in their homes or in residential or other institutional settings. It does not cover other types of violence that may be directed at older people, such as violence by strangers, street crime and gang warfare.

The definition developed by Action on Elder Abuse in the United Kingdom and adopted by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse states that: ‘‘Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older”. Such abuse is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse – the infliction of pain or injury, physical coercion, or physical or drug induced restraint.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse – the infliction of mental anguish.
  • Financial or material abuse – the illegal or improper exploitation or use of funds or resources of the older person.
  • Sexual abuse – non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with the older person.
  • Neglect – the refusal or failure to fulfill a care-giving obligation. This may or may not involve a conscious and intentional attempt to inflict physical or emotional distress on the older person.
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Here are some facts published in a report by Help Age India which shows the root cause of elder abuse:-

  1. 75% of the total respondents are living with family, 7% are alone and remaining 18% are living with spouse.
  2. Disrespect (68%), Neglect (28%), verbal abuse or beating (18%) and others (4%) are ranked as the common types of abuse faced by elderly.
  3. The elder victim cite that the primary reasons underlying their abuse are: greed of property (42%), economic dependence on abuser (49%) and ill health (22%) and others (4%).

AWARENESS

According to a survey conducted by The New Indian Express, it was revealed that only eight per cent were aware about the Bihar Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (BMWPSC) Act, 2007. According to the survey conducted by Help Age India, they found that:-

  • Only 50% of police station has received official communication for their role and aware about protection of life and property of senior citizens are their responsibility and remaining 50% police station has yet to receive any message or circular from senior authority.
  • 10% (04 out of 38) police station maintaining list of senior citizens living within its jurisdiction, especially those who lives alone and separate register to report crime against senior citizens.
  • None of the police station has formed volunteers’ committee for regular contacts between police stations and Senior Citizens.
  • 37% police station has reported crime against senior citizens on monthly reports separately to the District Superintendent of Police every month. However, 63% police station has not reported it separately.
  • 95% police officers have reported necessity of training on provisions of Bihar Maintenance & Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules 2012 to provide protection of life and property of senior Citizens.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Awareness drive should be organized on a regular basis to educate senior citizens about various provisions of Bihar Maintenance & welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules 2012 using Audio – Visual Materials, poster and leaflets.
  • A meeting should be called on a large scale with the public officials, media persons and N.G.O’s and form a chain between Media, N.G.Os and the government, which will help in passing the information from any non-governmental organization to the government organization and vice versa.
  • Port-Folio of the senior citizens must be made available to the respective police stations. For easy access, the data should be made online with personal mobile number of the senior citizens so that the police can directly contact them at any instant.
  • A specific nodal officer should be appointed in every police station for the issue of senior citizens.
  • Documentaries should be made to promote the act.
  • Students are better carrier of any message, so the students should be made aware, further they will be helpful in promoting the act.
  • Income generation opportunities for able and willing older persons should be provided by creating suitable infrastructures whichare suitable for the older workers.
  • Accessible, affordable and available Geriatric health facilities should be provided for the older people.
  • Police stations should form volunteer’s committee for regular contacts between police stations and Senior Citizens.
  • There is a necessity of training on provisions of Bihar Maintenance & Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules 2012 to provide protection of life and property of senior Citizens.
  • There is a need to establish Old Age Homes at least in those districts where the need is on priority.
  • Seminars/Workshops should be organized to make the concerned authorities aware about their role and responsibility.
  • Provision of medical facilities and livelihood opportunity should be there to reduce Elder Abuse.

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