Thursday, June 2, 2011

Senior Citizen Act, 2007

A community is known by the way it treats vulnerable sections of society such as the elderly. Traditionally, in India, it has been a part of our culture, for society and the family to take care of older persons. Senior Citizens are held in high esteem and are given priority and respect in all matters.
Today, rapid urbanization and the compulsions of modern working conditions have lead to a breakdown of the traditional joint family system resulting in the growth of nuclear families. Better medical facilities have lead to increased longevity. The number of Senior Citizens  in the country has been steadily growing. In percentage terms, their population is projected to rise to about 12.4 per cent in 2026, doubling from 76.6 million in 2006 to 173.1 million in 2026.
As their children settled down in other cities, many parents, who had conventionally enjoyed a place of pride in the family, found themselves living alone. The frailty of old age combined with health problems, crimes by anti social elements and insufficient income has left them with a feeling of rising insecurity. Children, being busy with their new lives, are unable to visit regularly. Parents have to cope single handedly, which is quite difficult considering their limited earnings.
Parents and Senior Citizens form a physically and mentally active segment of society with twin strengths as consumers and voters. Hence, strong measures were needed to alleviate the pains of this vulnerable section, which comprises a sizeable chunk of the population.
With this in mind, the Government enacted the Senior Citizen Act in 2007 as an answer to the insecurities faced by older persons of the country. An initiative of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, this Act accords prime responsibility for the maintenance of parents on their children, grand children or even relatives who may possibly inherit the property of a Senior Citizen. It also calls upon the State to provide facilities for poor and destitute older persons.
The National Portal of India has a Senior Citizen Corner that offers information of special help to older persons in the country. It provides details about health ailments, old age homes, government schemes, travel concessions, loans, benefits and a lot more. The main aim of this section is to make the lives of Senior Citizens safer, securer and financially sound.

Provisions of the Act

  • Parents who are unable to maintain themselves through their own earnings or out of their own property may apply for maintenance from their adult children. This maintenance includes the provision of proper food, shelter, clothing and medical treatment.
  • Parents include biological, adoptive and step mothers and fathers, whether senior citizens or not.
  • A childless Senior Citizen who is sixty years and above, can also claim maintenance from relatives who are in possession of or are likely to inherit their property.
  • This application for maintenance may be made by Senior Citizens themselves or they may authorize a person or voluntary organization to do so. The Tribunal may also take action on its own.
  • Tribunals on receiving these applications may hold an enquiry or order the children/ relatives to pay an interim monthly allowance for the maintenance of their Parents or Senior Citizen.
  • If the Tribunal is satisfied that children or relatives have neglected or refused to take care of their parents or Senior Citizen, it shall order them to provide a monthly maintenance amount, up to a maximum of Rs.10,000 per month.
  • The State Government is required to set up one or more tribunals in every sub-division. It shall also set up Appellate Tribunals in every district to hear the appeals of Senior Citizens against the decision of the Tribunals.
  • No legal practitioner is required or permitted for this process.
  • Erring persons are punishable with imprisonment up to three months or a fine of up to rupees five thousand or with both.
  • State Governments should set up at least one Old Age Home for every 150 beneficiaries in a district. These homes are to provide Senior Citizens with minimum facilities such as food, clothing and recreational activities.
  • All Government hospitals or those funded by the Government must provide beds for Senior Citizens as far as possible. Also, special queues to access medical facilities should be arranged for them.

Implementation of the Act

Currently, 11 States have notified this Act  They are Nagaland, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, Kerala, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Orissa. Other States are in the process of framing appropriate Rules for this Act.
By bringing out the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, the Government has taken a small step towards bringing a smile to the faces of the elders of our society. As a nation, it is every citizens duty to ensure that Senior Citizens live a happy, healthy and secure life. They took care of us in their youth and helped us grow; we owe them a better tomorrow.

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