New se­nior cit­i­zens bill can re­duce abuse of el­ders

It man­dates the es­tab­lish­ment of tri­bunals at a mi­cro­level to spare se­niors the te­dium of the ju­di­cial process

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Comment - MALA KAPUR SHANKARDASS Mala Kapur Shankardass is a so­ci­ol­o­gist, health so­cial sci­en­tist and geron­tol­o­gist The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

As the prob­lem of abuse of the el­derly is be­com­ing a se­ri­ous con­cern in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, many coun­tries are bring­ing leg­is­la­tions to stop abuse, aban­don­ment and ne­glect of older peo­ple. In In­dia, the Min­istry of So­cial Jus­tice and Em­pow­er­ment (MoSJ&E) has for­mu­lated a draft Main­te­nance and Wel­fare of Par­ents and Se­nior Cit­i­zens (MWPSC) Amend­ment Bill, 2018 to be placed be­fore Par­lia­ment. The amended bill takes care of many of the la­cu­nas in the 2007 MWPSC Act to en­sure bet­ter care and main­te­nance for the par­ents and se­nior cit­i­zens. It en­vi­sions pre­vent­ing abuse and aban­don­ment of par­ents and se­nior cit­i­zens by their kin. It ex­tends to the whole of In­dia ex­cept Jammu & Kash­mir. Hi­machal Pradesh has its own act for se­nior cit­i­zens. It ap­plies also to cit­i­zens of In­dia out­side In­dia.

The MWPSC Act man­dates states for­ma­tion of tri­bunals for ev­ery sub-di­vi­sion of a dis­trict to look into the griev­ances of se­nior cit­i­zens, par­tic­u­larly those who don’t re­ceive care in the form of proper food, shel­ter, cloth­ing or med­i­cal treat­ment from their kin. The es­tab­lish­ment of tri­bunals spares se­niors the rig­ma­role of the ju­di­cial process, and aims to re­solve con­flicts within 90 days. The leg­is­la­tion en­ables a ne­glected par­ent or a se­nior cit­i­zen to ap­proach the tri­bunal if they are un­able to main­tain them­selves from their own earn­ings and prop­erty. The tri­bunal would award main­te­nance up to ₹10,000, to be paid by their le­gal heir. Those con­victed for ne­glect­ing or aban­don­ing par­ents could face a jail term up to three months.

The draft MWPSC Amend­ment Bill, 2018, with mod­i­fied def­i­ni­tions and ad­di­tion of new clauses and pro­vi­sions, seems promis­ing as it adopts a rights-based ap­proach to en­sure se­nior cit­i­zens’ main­te­nance of their ba­sic needs, safety and se­cu­rity by their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. It also calls for es­tab­lish­ment, man­age­ment and reg­u­la­tion of in­sti­tu­tions and ser­vices to cater to needs of older peo­ple. It ex­tends to the needs of such se­nior cit­i­zens and par­ents so that they may lead a life of dig­nity. The amend­ment now has a clause that bars se­nior cit­i­zens’ care­tak­ers from sell­ing of the prop­erty with­out the con­sent of their par­ent or se­nior cit­i­zen. The bill thus ex­pands the am­bit of safety and se­cu­rity for the el­derly by mak­ing even dis­tant rel­a­tives re­spon­si­ble for their up­keep and re­mov­ing the max­i­mum ceil­ing of the main­te­nance al­lowance of ₹10,000, which in cer­tain cases is seen as be­ing too mea­gre.

The amended bill brings a much needed change to give se­nior cit­i­zens a life of dig­nity and re­spect by treat­ing it as their right. The bill could have been made more proac­tive but it is a wel­come leg­is­la­tion that should to be ap­proved soon.

S BURMAULA/HT PHOTO

The MWPSC Amend­ment Bill, 2018, adopts a rights­based ap­proach to en­sure se­nior cit­i­zens are not de­nied their ba­sic needs

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