Rights of Parents and Senior Citizens

The persons above the age of 60 — the elderly and senior citizens or older persons constitute an increasing proportion of the population across the globe. This is due to increase in life expectancy at birth. Many older persons retire from regular work and many others, even though working, do not have sufficient means or resources to meet their needs, and are thus largely dependent on their families for meeting their needs. Often, adequate family support is also not available to many senior citizens. They are not able to live their lives to the fullest extent and are also becoming isolated from mainstream society. These issues have been acknowledged at international forums including the United Nations which has taken several steps — adopted resolutions calling upon member-countries to take steps in this regard. The issues and problems facing senior citizens are thus a matter of concern both internationally and nationally, for governments of individual countries. Many countries have enacted laws or included provisions in existing laws to look after the interests and well-being of the senior citizens or older persons. In India also, in view of the changing scenario relating to population, society and families, issues of welfare of senior citizens have received due consideration and various laws and policies have accordingly been framed.

In this post, we will, therefore, discuss the various measures in the form of laws, policies, special schemes, among others, that have been taken at the international level as well as in India for the protection of the rights and interests of elder and older persons or senior citizens.

International Efforts For Protection of the Elderly Persons

Over the years, implications of the problems and issues related to older persons have received increasing recognition the world over, This has led to international efforts aimed at involving the national Governments in the process of taking suitable measures to ensure that the rights of the elderly are protected. 

  • The issue of ageing was first raised at the United Nations at the initiative of Argentina in 1948 and again by Malta in 1969 (Singh, 2007). This led to the incorporation of an article in the Declaration on Social Progress and Development, 1969 which referred to the need to protect the rights and ensure the welfare of senior citizens, and to the adoption, in 1973, by the United Nations of a Resolution on 'Questions of the Elderly and the Aged (http://www.unac.org/iyop/unquest.html). In the year 1982, a World Assembly on Ageing was held, and in the same year, an International Plan of Action on Ageing was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The International Plan of Action on Ageing took note of the increased proportion of the population of ageing persons in the world which is the result of a change in the age structure and recognised that the issue of aging is one that will be of concern for all countries (United Nations, 1983). The Plan of Action is based on several principles, including the recognition that: the spiritual, cultural and socio-economic contributions of the aged are valuable to society; the family being the fundamental unit of society should be maintained, strengthened and protected in accordance with the traditions and customs of each country: an important objective of socio-economic development is age-integrated society in which age discrimination and are eliminated; and the aged should be active involuntary segregation participants in the formulation and implementation of policies especially those affecting them. It contains about 60 recommendations dealing with several aspects ranging from humanitarian issues incorporating the specific needs of the elderly to development issues relating to the socio-economic implications of ageing. It stresses that a fundamental principle in the care of the elderly must be to enable them to lead independent lives in the community as soon as possible (Ibid).
  • Another important development at the international level took place in 1991 , when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Principles for Older Persons to provide a broader framework for action on ageing, which included principles Of Independences participation; Care, self fulfilment and dignity (http://www,unac.org/iyop/unquest.html). The year 1999 was declared to be the international Year of Older Persons. This declaration Was made by the United Nations General Assembly in "recognition of humanity’s demographic coming Of age and the promise it holds for maturing attitudes and capabilities in social, economic, cultural, and spiritual undertakings; not least for global peace and development in the next century". It focused on the situation of older persons, individual lifelong development, interrelationships of generations, and the interrelationship of population aging and development. Solidarity, exchanges and respect between generations was emphasized and the activities ranged from formal academic and policy development conferences to community and neighborhood gatherings (http://www.unac.org/iyop/more.html).
  • A further development in this regard took place in the year 2002 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing. The Plan of Action was formulated in view of the vast changes that had taken place in the world since the earlier Plan of Action framed in 1982, and of population ageing having become a concern for developing countries as well. The Plan of Action focussed on older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age and ensuring an enabling and supportive environment (United Nations, 2002). The declaration and Plan adopted "reinvigorated the political consensus on an agenda on ageing" and emphasized development, international cooperation and assistance in this area (http://www.un.org/en/events/olderpersonsday/background.shtml). 
  • The 1st October of each year has been designated as the International Day of Older Persons. The theme for the year 2011 was "Launch of Madrid plus 10" marking 10 years of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing. The UN Secretary General called for recommitment to the Madrid Plan of Action and provision by Governments and Communities of more opportunities for ageing populations (http://social.un.org/index/Ageing/InternationalDayof OlderPersons/2011 .aspx). As a step in this direction, an International Institute on Ageing of the United Nations has been established in Malta. 
  •  In 2007, at a High Level Meeting of the Regional Review of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing held at Macao, 46 recommendations for action were made on the priority areas on the Madrid Plan of Action, which included mainstreaming ageing concerns, strengthening health systems for the prevention and management of chronic diseases, strengthening old persons associations and NGOs to address the needs of and to empower older persons, and promotion of regional cooperation on trans-boundary issues.

It is clear from the various developments with regard to the welfare of older persons which have taken place at the international level that while it is recognized that there is need for Governments to take steps to provide for the special needs of senior citizens, at the same time, the importance of senior citizens leading an independent life as far as possible and being active participants in policies to protect their rights and welfare. These policies also took note of the importance of strengthening traditional support mechanisms of the family as well as provision of alternative support systems for those in need. Constitutional and Legal Rights Of Parents and Senior Citizen/Older Persons in India
In this section, the focus of our discussion will be the maintenance and welfare of the elder/older persons in India.

1. Need for Legal Protection of Parents and Older Persons

With increase in life expectancy at global level, the population of older persons or the aged is increasing the world over including India. It has been noted that the number Of senior citizens in India has increased from 24 million in 1951 to 57 million in 1991 and is expected to cross the 100 million mark by 2013 (Government of India, 1999). It has been pointed out that the implications of ageing are more serious in developing countries like India as there are problems of earning from assets in old age, credit and insurance markets are poorly developed and there is no tradition of extra-familial welfare institutions (Pal, 2004). Thus, though longevity has increased, older persons have to face a number of problems and share many concerns in such state of affairs. Changes in the structure of society, erosion of traditional values, changing lifestyles and family structures with increasing number of nuclear families coupled with breakdown of the traditional joint family system as well as more young people moving to other places for work, have left many elderly people with no meaningful roles within a family and community. As a result, the traditional support system is no longer available to the elderly (Minocha, 2003; and Ramesh, 2008). At times, even when family support is available, the families may not have adequate resources to provide for the needs of the elderly. Many older persons have also to deal with problems of lack of adequate financial resources and economic security (Packiam, 2003; and Ramesh, 2008). Some older persons also have to face numerous health problems and diseases, and as has been noted, diseases as well as hospitalisation rates are higher among older persons than that of the total population (GOI, 2011).

Srinivas and Vijayalakshmi (2001) had found verbal abuse to be the most frequently reported form of abuse. In another study conducted in eight cities in India in the year 2010 found that the elderly face many types of abuse — from the most common form of showing disrespect to neglect and verbal, economic and emotional abuses (HelpAge India, 2010).

Another issue faced by the elderly is lack of security, and even physical exploitation and abuse. Incidents of crimes against older persons are not uncommon, and we often come across such incidents reported in newspapers. It has been found in a study that four out of ten elders are victims of abuse; and in 47.3% of such cases the perpetrators are their adult offspring and 9% of all abuses are perpetrated by grandchildren (Rai, 2008).

The factors discussed above leads to a situation where many parents, other elderly persons and senior citizens are left without adequate support and care in and outside the families. All these make it difficult to lead their lives with dignity. Due to these reasons, it is essential that the law intervenes and makes provisions to ensure that elder persons and senior citizens are not neglected or abandoned by their families, and where they are indigent and lack the requisite social and financial security for the later years of their lives, the State itself takes- steps to ensure that their rights are protected and needs are met adequately.

2. Measures for Maintenance and Welfare of the Elder Persons/Senior Citizens

The Constitution of India guarantees all persons the right to life (Article 21), which means a right to life with dignity. Also, India being a welfare state, the Government has a duty to take steps for the welfare of all its citizens. Article 41 of the Constitution specifically directs the State to make provisions within the limits of its economic capacity and development for securing among other things, public assistance in the case of old age, sickness, disablement and other cases of undeserved want. This provision is a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, in Part IV of the Constitution, which cannot be specifically enforced. However, the Directive Principles have been declared to be fundamental in the governance of the country and act as guidelines for the State, which is required to apply these principles in making laws (Constitution of India, Article 37). Various steps have been taken by the Government from time to time, in the form of preparation of policies and plans of action with regard to the welfare of older persons, introduction of various schemes in the interest of older persons including those who are living below the poverty line or have insufficient resources to lead their lives, as well as enacting of laws or provisions in existing laws relating to issues of concern for senior citizens. As Sujaya (2001) points out, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the social welfare approach was followed and old age pension and shelter were introduced for older persons in India, they were perceived as natural recipients of welfare handouts, doles and institutionalized services and not as active participants in planning their own development and welfare. This approach has undergone a change now — policies relating to senior citizens in India, as in the international arena, treat older persons as active and equal participants in every aspect of life, including in formulating and implementing policies which are applicable to them. They seek to empower older persons so that they can have better control over their lives (GOI, 1999). While there were provisions in some laws enabling older persons who were unable to maintain themselves to be able to claim maintenance, certain other privileges and benefits were also available with regard to taxation, travel, etc, and a pension scheme for senior citizens who lacked sufficient means to maintain themselves. A comprehensive policy for older persons was formulated only in 1999.

National Policy on Older Persons - Action Plans and Programmes: The National Policy on Older Persons, 1999 sought to create the assurance that the concerns of older persons are national concerns and that they will not live unprotected, ignored or marginalised lives. It views the 60+ stage as a phase when the individual should have chances and opportunities to lead an active, creative, productive and satisfying life (GOI, 1999). However, "it is difficult to take these grand promises seriously, or envisage from where the funds for the new State interventions promised in the policy ... will be found, given the precarious financial position of the government in the area of reforms" (Sujaya, 2001).

In addition to this policy, Annual Plans of Action for the Welfare of Older Persons have been prepared from time to time, wherein the measures to be taken by different Ministries and Departments of the Government for the welfare of older persons are detailed. The Annual Plan of Action for the year 2007-2008 contemplates various measures including universal and equal access to healthcare services; development of appropriate educational and training material relevant and useful for older persons; inculcation of traditional values in the educational system to remove prejudices against the elderly; involvement in primary education of voluntary educators among senior citizens; employment opportunities for those who want to work; free legal aid to senior citizens', and educating society on issues relating to senior citizens.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare also prepared an Integrated Programme for Older Persons in 2008 which seeks to ensure improved quality of life for older persons through involvement of Government, panchayati Raj Institutions, Local Bodies, NGOs and the community at large, in the capacity- building programs:

  1. to cater to the basic needs including food, shelter and health older persons;
  2. to build and strengthen intergenerational relationships;
  3. to encourage active and productive ageing;
  4. to provide institutional and non-institutional care to older persons; and 
  5. to promote research, advocacy and awareness building as regards ageing.

Other programmes encouraged the best interests of older persons. Assistance up to 90% is provided by the Government for the various schemes covered, while in case of schools, colleges, the Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathan and the National Service Scheme undertaking programmes and services for older persons, up to 100% assistance would be provided by the Government (http://socialjustice.nic.in/ ipop.php).

In the year 2011, a new Draft National Policy for Senior Citizens was prepared which takes into account the subsequent international efforts that have made an impact on the national policy including the Madrid Plan of Action, the UN Principles for Senior Citizens, Shanghai Plan of Action, 2002 and the Macao Outcome Document, to which the Government of India is a signatory. The Policy takes note of the current demographic scenario pointing out that the population of senior citizens in the years 2000-2050 is expected to grow by 326% as compared to a 55% growth in the overall population. The 80+ group will be the largest growing group at a rate of nearly 700%. The policy highlights the need for all aspects of care including socio-economic, finance, health, and shelter for the oldest old or 80+ group as problems in these areas would have an impact on the quality of life in old age. The need for special attention for problems of elderly women, who are "exacerbated by a lifetime of gender-based discrimination, often stemmmg from deep-rooted cultural and social bias", as well as that pf the rural poor who are at the bottom of the income distribution in India, are also underscored. The policy focuses on mainstreaming senior citizens and bringing their concerns into the national development debate. I recognizes the family as a partner with the community, government and private sector for the care of senior citizens with institutional care last resort. It acknowledges that senior citizens are a valuable resource for the country and that there is a need to create an environment providing them with equal opportunities, protecting their rights an4 enabling their full participation in society (001, 2011).

1. Provisions for Maintenance of the Parents and Senior Citizens

Maintenance of the elderly refers to means of subsistence or supply of necessaries such as food, shelter, clothing, etc., or aid, support and assurance given by one person to another for his living (Aiyar, 2004). The expression 'maintenance' has been defined in the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 as "provisions for food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment" [Section 2 (b)]. The expression is also defined in similar terms in the provisions of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 [Section 3 (b)]. A remedy for parents and senior citizens to claim maintenance from their children or relatives is available in Indian law under the following:

  1. the Code of Criminal Procedure,
  2. the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, and
  3. the personal laws,

I) Code of Criminal Procedure: The Code of Criminal Procedure provides a remedy for parents who are unable to maintain themselves, enabling them to seek maintenance from their children who neglect or refuse to maintain them despite having sufficient means to do so. Such parent(s) may seek a remedy before a Magistrate of first class, and if neglect or refusal to maintain is proved, the Magistrate may direct the person to make a monthly allowance at a rate which the Magistrate thinks fit and pay the same from time to time as directed [Section 125, Code of Criminal Procedure]. Such remedy is available only to parents. If a person, who has been directed to pay maintenance to his parent under this provision fails to do so without sufficient cause, the Magistrate may issue a warrant for recovering the whole or part of the allowance, the interim maintenance or expenses, and if any such amount remains unpaid after execution of the warrant, the person may be sentenced to imprisonment for one month or until payment of the amount, whichever is sooner [Section 125(3), Code of Criminal Procedure]. This provision was, however, found to be time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive which led to the enactment by the Parliament of a new legislation, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, 2007).

ii) Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007: The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act was enacted by the Parliament in 2007 which enables senior citizens including parents who are unable to maintain themselves from their earnings or property owned by them to make an application against their children or grandchildren above the age of eighteen or where they are childless, against such of their relatives as would be their legal heir and is or would inherit possession of their property after his/her death [Section 4(1), and Section 2(a) of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act]. Where a parent or senior citizen is incapable of making an application, the application may be made by any person or organization authorized by him/her or cognizance may even be taken by the Tribunal suo motu. The obligation extends to meeting such needs of the parent or senior citizen that he or she may be able to lead a normal life. The maximum monthly allowance that can be permitted under this Act is Rs. 10,000.

It may be mentioned here that under this Act maintenance can be claimed by a parent if he/she is unable to maintain himself/herself even if he/she is not a senior citizen. A parent may seek remedies under either of the two provisions, i.e. the Code of Criminal Procedure or Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, but not under both.

While Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act does widen the protection available to senior citizens under the law, particularly with regard to maintenance by providing that maintenance can be claimed even by childless senior citizens from their legal heirs, one problem that has been pointed out in this regard is that in order for such claim, the senior citizen may have to reveal the contents of his/her will 2007).

Under this Act special Maintenance Tribunals have beep constituted to hear and decide applications for maintenance [Section 7, Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act]. This Act also makes a provision for an amicable resolution of the dispute related to maintenance outside the Tribunal by reference of the matter by the Tribunal to a Conciliation Officer. Conciliation is a process under which a neutral third party assists the parties who are having a dispute to reach a peaceful settlement. If within one month such an amicable solution is reached, an order would accordingly be passed (Section 6(6), Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act]. However, as the language of the provision shows, it is not necessary that each application filed before the tribunal will be referred for conciliation. This Act also attempts to reduce the procedural difficulties that may be faced by the applicants in ordinary courts as Section 8 empowers the Tribunal to adopt a summary procedure, i.e. to say, by a brief or short method in conducting inquiries with regard to applications for maintenance. Also, under Chis Act [Section applications for maintenance have to be decided within a time limit of ninety days of the notice of the application being given to the person against whom it is made. In exceptional circumstances, this period may be extended by thirty days only once (Aiyer, 2004). Another difference in the applications made under this Act as compared to the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and also the other Acts (which we will discuss later in this Unit) the parties are not permitted to have legal representation. In other words, the Tribunal would hear only the parents/ senior citizens and children/relatives in person in order to decide whether an application would lie.

In case the person directed to pay maintenance under the provisions of the Act fails to do so, a remedy similar to the one contemplated under the Code of Criminal Procedure discussed above is available, i.e. warrant for the whole or part of the amount, and in case of non-payment after execution of the warrant, a sentence of imprisonment for a term of one month or until payment, whichever is sooner [Section 5(8)].However, for such a warrant to be issued, an application would have to be made to the tribunal within three months of the amount having become due The provisions of this Act have been criticised on the ground that the State sidesteps its obligations under the Constitution by placing the mandatory obligation to maintain senior citizens on the children and relatives while many of the obligations on the part of the State are only to be provided at the option of the State, for e.g. establishment of old-age homes (Madhavan, 2007).

iii) Personal laws: Besides the aforementioned legal provisions, there are provisions in the personal laws of some communities [personal laws are those laws which govern "certain aspects of a person's relationships such as succession, marriage, etc, by virtue of their belonging to a particular community or group" (Aiyer, 2004)1, which impose a duty on children to maintain their parents and in certain circumstances, other relatives as well. The provisions under personal laws would be applicable only to persons who are members of that community to which that personal law applies.

The remedy of maintenance is also available to the aged and the infirm parents under the provisions of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (Section 20) so far as the parent is unable to maintain himself/herself out of his/her own earnings or other property. Similarly, the heirs of a deceased Hindu are bound to maintain the dependents of the deceased which includes the father and mother of the deceased (Section 22, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act). It may be mentioned here that the provisions of this Act are applicable only to Hindus. The Court would take into account various factors such as: the status of parties; reasonable wants of the claimant; whether the claimant is justified in living separately; the value of the claimant's property including any income from the property or earnings from any other source; and the number of persons entitled to maintenance under the Act, in determining the amount of maintenance to be allowed (Section 23, Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act). In case of maintenance to dependents, some further factors such as the net value of the estate of the deceased; the provision under the will of the deceased in respect of the dependent; and past relations between the dependent and the deceased may also be considered.

A duty to maintain the aged parents is also imposed on children in Muslim Law. According to the Hedaya, it is incumbent upon a man to provide maintenance for his father, mother, grandfathers and grandmothers if they should happen to be in necessitous circumstances (Rashid, 2004). Children’s obligation to maintain their poor parents is irrespective of sex or wealth; a person in easy circumstances is bound to maintain their poor parents, although the latter may be able to earn (Singh, 2007; and Fyzee, 2008). There is also an obligation on persons in easy circumstances to maintain their poor relations within the prohibited degrees in proportion to the shares in which they would inherit at the time of death of such poor relation (Rashid, 2004).

It has been pointed out by some commentators that legislation may not be actually very effective in ensuring that the elderly are cared for by their children. Fact is that, even though there is provision under Section 125 of the Cr. PC, only a few have utilised it as parents may hesitate to approach the courts seeking maintenance from their children due to social pressures, possibility of severance of emotional bonds as well as fear of repercussions (Ramamurthi and Jamuna, 2005 ; Madhavan, 2007; and Rai, 2008). Also, as a study conducted by HelpAge India on abuse of the elderly in some major cities of India noted, a large percentage of the elderly who had faced abuse did not register a complaint against the abuser (HelpAge India, 2010). Another reason cited for lack of recourse to legal measures for obtaining remedies is lack of mobility and financial resources of older persons (Ghosh, 2010).

2. Provisions for Welfare of the Parents and Senior Citizens 

In addition to the provisions for maintenance, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 also contains certain provisions to protect the interests and promote the welfare Of senior citizens, particularly those who lack sufficient means and social support in important areas like healthcare and shelter. There are also provisions for protection of the life and property of senior citizens including those senior citizens who have been abandoned by their families or deprived of their property under false promises of looking after their welfare. These measures are:

a) Establishment of Old Age Homes: The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act envisages establishment and maintenance by the State Government of Old Age Homes at accessible places as it considers necessary to accommodate senior citizens who are indigent including such senior citizens who, in the State Government's opinion, do not have sufficient resources to maintain themselves, and also prescribing of a scheme for the management of such homes including the standard to be maintained and various services necessary for the medical care and entertainment of the inhabitants (Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, Section 19). However, this Act does not make it mandatory for the State Government to establish such homes.

b) Health and Medical Care: Health and medical care is another area in which facilities are required by senior citizens. In this regard, the Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act specifically imposes an obligation on the State Government to ensure that: i) beds are made available for senior citizens in hospitals funded wholly or partially from government funds and in Government hospitals; ii) separate queues for senior citizens are provided; iii) facilities for expanded treatment for chronic, terminal and degenerative diseases for senior citizens are provided; iv) research activities are expanded for chronic diseases of the elderly and ageing; and v) facilities are earmarked for geriatric patients in every district hospital duly headed by a medical officer with experience in geriatric care. (Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, Section 20).

c) Legal Provisions with respect to Protection of Life and Property: Another measure for protection and promotion of the welfare of senior citizens provided under the Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act is with regard to property transferred by gift or otherwise by senior citizens to persons under the condition that the transferee provides basic amenities and physical needs to such senior citizen. Where the person to whom property is transferred subject to such a condition fails to provide basic amenities and fulfil their needs, the transfer of property would be considered by law to be made by fraud, coercion or undue influence and may be declared to be void by the Tribunal at the option of the senior citizen (Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, Section 23). In other words, the transfer of property which is done under such a false promise would be cancelled. This Act also provides measures for punishment of persons who are responsible for the care of a senior citizen but leave such senior citizen in a place with the intention of abandoning the senior citizen. A person who intentionally abandons a senior citizen in his care can be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment for three months or fine of Rs.5,000 or both (Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, Section 24).

d) Sensitization of Authorities and Coordination between Departments: The officers of the Central and State Governments including police and judicial officers are required to be sensitised with regard to the issues relating to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. The State Government is also required to ensure effective coordination between its various Ministnes and Departments including law, home affairs, health and welfare, etc to address issues relating to the welfare of senior citizens (Section 21 ). A further obligation imposed on the State Government under this Act is preparation of a comprehensive plan for providing protection to the life and

Thus; while a number of provisions have been made by the Parliament and even by some State Legislatures for the protection of rights and welfare of senior citizens many have pointed out that legislation alone is not sufficient to address these issues adequately. Many commentators have emphasized that there must be positive family counselling to improve relations and interactions in the family, as well as promotion of eldercare as a value (Packiam, 2003; Ramamurthi and Jamuna, 2005; and Ghosh, 2010).

3. Rights and Privileges of Older Persons and Senior Citizens 

 As provided in the National Policy on Older Persons, 1999 and the National Policy on Senior Citizens, 2011 , older persons have the right to participate equally in social and development activities. An important object of these policies has been to create an atmosphere in which such equal participation and equality of opportunities to senior citizens is possible, and the rights of senior citizens are protected. The Indian Constitution guarantees to all its citizens various fundamental rights and freedoms including the right to life, liberty, non-discrimination in matters of employment, freedom of speech, movement, assembly, etc., subject to certain reasonable resonations and these rights are to be enjoyed by all citizens/persons equally, irrespective of their age. The right to life which is enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution has been widely interpreted by the Supreme Court in a number of landmark cases (e.g. Francis Coralie Mullin v Administrator Union Territory of Delhi, AIR 1981 SC 746; Paschim Bang Kheth Mazdoor Samiti v State of West Bengal, AIR 1996 SC 2005; and Shantistar Builders v Narain Khimalal Totame, AIR 1990 SC 549) to mean the right to a meaningful life with dignity and to include in it the right to shelter, food, and medical care, among other things. All these rights are equally available to all senior citizens. As has been discussed in the preceding sub-section, senior citizens and parents who are unable to mamtain themselves have a right under both personal laws as well as general laws to claim maintenance from their children, grandchildren or relatives, as the case may be, with regard to food, shelter, clothing and medical assistance. It is significant to note that the National Policy on Senior Citizens (GOI, 2011), which recognises the need to create an environment in which the rights of senior citizens are protected, envisages the creation of National and State Commissions for Senior Citizens under Acts of Parliament which would deal with cases pertaining to rights of senior citizens. Such a measure if taken would ensure that specific forums are available to ensure speedy justice to senior citizens.

  • Pension: Pension schemes such as the provident fund, gratuity and pensions schemes, providing lump-sum benefit or monthly annuity have been introduced by the Government to assist citizens in ensuring savings for old age. But, as has been noted, these cover only about 10% of the workforce which works in the organised sector, while 90% who work in the non- organised sector or informal sector have no access to old age security (Goswami, 1999, See http://www.actuaries.org/EVENTS/Seminars/Brighton/ presentations/goswami.pdf). Central Government employees who have been in service for a minimum of 10 years are entitled to receive pension, which is calculated with reference to average of basic pay drawn during the last I O months of service or last basic pay drawn, whichever is more beneficial. The pension amount payable has a minimum limit of Rs.3,500 per month and a maximum limit of 50% of the highest pay in the Government of India. A scheme for family pension for Central Government employees is also available, under which a widow is entitled to receive pension on the death of her spouse after one year of continuous government service. Gratuity is a onetime lump-sum benefit which is available to persons with at least 5 years service and is calculated at 1/4th of the Month's basic pay with dearness allowance last drawn before retirement for each completed six months of service (For details See, Department of Pensions and Pensioners Welfare http://pensionersportal.gov.in/retire-benefit.asp; and HelpAge India, 2005). Also, a General Provident Fund is available to temporary employees of the Government, re-employed pensioners and all permanent Government servants under which subscribers must subscribe at a monthly payment until three months prior to retirement at a rate not less than 6% of the subscriber's emoluments. Some other schemes that have been introduced include Commutation of Pension, Service Gratuity (where the length of service is less than 10 years), Deposit-linked Insurance Revised Scheme, Contributory Provident Fund, Leave Encashment and Central Government Employees Group Insurance Scheme (http://pensionersportal.gov.in/retire-benefit.asp). In order to provide economic security to indigent senior citizens, the National Old Age Pension Scheme, as a part of the National Social Assistance programme, has commenced in 1995. The National Old Age Pension Scheme as it stood earlier granted to indigent senior citizens above the age of 65, who were destitute, a pension of Rs.75 per month. From November 2007, a new pension scheme named the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme was launched which provides pension to senior citizens living below the poverty line and who are above the age of 60. The contribution of the Central Government is Rs.200 for persons until the age of 79 and Rs.500 for persons above the age of 79, and depending on the contributions of the State persons get between Rs.200 and Rs. 1000 per month. The new scheme thus has a wider coverage than the scheme as it originally stood (http://nsap.nic.in/ nsap/FAQ ON NSAP NEW.pdf). Another scheme introduced by the Government of India since the year 2000 is the Annapurna Scheme under which older persons who are entitled to old-age pension but. not receiving the same are entitled to 10 kg of free food grains per month (HelpAge India, 2005). 
  • Tax Rebates: Rebates are also provided to senior citizens on income tax and various benefits are given to them under each Union Budget. In the Budget Proposals for the year 2011-12, the tax exemption limit for senior citizens above the age of 60 was raised to Rs.2.5 lakhs and a new tax slab was created for 'very senior citizens', i.e. 80 years and above, income up to Rs.5 lakhs is exempted from tax (PTI, 2011 ). 
  • Travel Allowances: In addition, travel allowances are also provided for senior citizens above the age of 65 (60 in the case of women) travelling in buses, separate entrance, rebates up to 30% in some cases by trains and rebate up to 50% by air in Indian Airlines, as well as concessions by some other service providers. There are different provisions in this regard for different airline service providers, and provisions for concessions in bus travel vary from State to State (For details, See HelpAge India, 2005).

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