A LATE-LIFE STRUG­GLE Some se­niors are fight­ing kids and kin for their rights

A re­cent study showed that 71% of elders in In­dia have been vic­tims of abuse from fam­ily. Now, an in­creas­ing num­ber is as­sert­ing their right to prop­erty and main­te­nance

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation -

Bal­winder Kaur’s ex­tended fam­ily owns 17 flats in south Delhi, but there was no room for her. The 66-year-old spent nearly six years con­fined in a tin shed, taunted and tor­tured by her brother and his fam­ily. A neigh­bour heard her cries, com­plained and she was res­cued. “The day I signed over my prop­erty rights, they started ill-treat­ing me. They would say: ‘Why don’t you just die,” she says.

A widow with no chil­dren, Bal­winder had no place to go. The NGO HelpAge In­dia helped her find shel­ter in an oldage home in Aya Na­gar. As her health im­proved, she found the de­ter­mi­na­tion to fight for her rights un­der the Main­te­nance and Wel­fare of Par­ents fore ap­proach­ing a tri­bunal. Chamelidev­i’s son and daugh­ter-in-law were put be­hind bars for a month and are now out on bail. “I could not be­lieve our own son could be­have like this. Aisa beta kissi ko na de (No one should be cursed with a son like him),” she says.

HelpAge In­dia CEO Mathew Cherian says that prop­erty is a sig­nif­i­cant point of con­tention in af­flu­ent fam­i­lies. “But with more aware­ness, se­niors are fight­ing for their right to stay in their homes or get main­te­nance,” he says. In fact, there’s a move to amend the act to in­crease main­te­nance and bring even dis­tant rel­a­tives in its am­bit.

Ker­ala-based Sarada had lit­tle hope of a happy res­o­lu­tion when she walked in to the Ot­tap­palam gov­ern­ment of­fice in Palakkad district to com­plain about ill-treat­ment by her chil­dren. Sarada’s al­co­holic hus­band had died leav­ing her noth­ing. She had worked as a tai­lor to raise her chil­dren. The years of hard work had yielded a small plot of land which she reg­is­tered in her youngest son’s name. But he threw Sarada out of her home. Not only did the sub-di­vi­sional mag­is­trate can­cel the ti­tle deed that Sarada had gifted to her youngest son but also or­dered her two chil­dren to pay Rs 1,500 each per month as main­te­nance. Ker­ala has seen a spurt of pe­ti­tions by se­nior cit­i­zens. Of the 6,687 pe­ti­tions filed in 27 tri­bunals, 70% came in the last two years. Only 873 were re­jected. “In some cases, field ver­i­fi­ca­tion showed that the per­son de­serted his chil­dren long back and reap­peared to seek main­te­nance,” says N Pras­anth, who was the first SDM to han­dle a main­te­nance tri­bunal in the state.

But not ev­ery­one is lucky enough to get re­dress. Delhi res­i­dent Prem Lal Sharma, a re­tired bank em­ployee, thought his job was done when he raised five sons and three daugh­ters. But now, when the 87-year-old has heart trou­ble and his wife is bed-rid­den, there is no help from them. With the help of NGO Dig­nity Foun­da­tion, Sharma ap­proached the court six months ear­lier but there has been no head­way in his case.

Saiki­ran

KP

Anindya Chat­topad­hyay Nilesh Wairkar

FAM­ILY FEUDS: Chamelidev­i and Bri­jesh Soni are back in their Mum­bai home (top) while PL Sharma con­tin­ues to fight against ill-treat­ment (left)

Tri­bunals can or­der monthly main­te­nance of up to Rs 10,000 Pe­ti­tion must be heard within 90 days of fil­ing a com­plaint

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