Sindh first to pass se­nior cit­i­zens wel­fare bill

Enterprise - - National news -

The Sindh Assem­bly unan­i­mously passed into law the Sindh Se­nior Cit­i­zens’ Wel­fare Bill, 2014, mak­ing the province the first one to adopt a law for the elderly.

How­ever, some of the priv­i­leges en­vis­aged in the bill ap­pear to be too good to be true when it comes to ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment­ing the law.

Par­lia­men­tary af­fairs min­is­ter Nisar Ahmed Khuhro moved the bill for its clause-by-clause con­sid­er­a­tion by the house on the ba­sis of re­port of the stand­ing com­mit­tee on so­cial wel­fare, which ex­am­ined it in de­tail.

The bill adopted by the House de­fined a se­nior cit­i­zen as a per­son aged 60 years or above and a per­ma­nent res­i­dent of the province.

The sec­tion 3(1) of the bill en­vis­ages es­tab­lish­ing a se­nior cit­i­zens coun­cil with provin­cial min­is­ter for so­cial wel­fare as its chair­per­son. Other mem­bers of the com­mit­tee in­clude two mem­bers of assem­bly nom­i­nated by the speaker; sec­re­taries of the fi­nance, health, lo­cal govern­ment, za­kat and usher, trans­port, food and agri­cul­ture de­part­ments; two mem­bers from well-known non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions - one en­gaged in the wel­fare of the se­nior cit­i­zens and other work­ing for hu­man rights; two se­nior cit­i­zens from the civil so­ci­ety and one of whom should be a re­tired govern­ment of­fi­cer and the other busi­nessper­son; one re­tired ses­sions judge or ad­di­tional ses­sions judge and the sec­re­tary of the so­cial wel­fare depart­ment will act as the sec­re­tary of the body.

One of the func­tions of the coun­cil as de­fined in the bill is to for­mu­late poli­cies for the wel­fare and im­prov­ing the well-be­ing of se­nior cit­i­zens and to is­sue the se­nior cit­i­zens cards, which would be called ‘Azadi Cards’ by pro­vid­ing es­sen­tial ser­vices and ben­e­fits to se­nior cit­i­zens.

The coun­cil will also es­tab­lish se­nior cit­i­zens’ lodg­ing es­tab­lish­ments and homes for their phys­i­cal, men­tal, emo­tional, so­cial and eco­nomic well-be­ing.

The coun­cil will also work to pro­vide free geri­atric, med­i­cal, and health ser­vices with free medicines for

se­nior cit­i­zens as pre­scribed by re­spec­tive med­i­cal of­fi­cers from govern­ment dis­pen­saries, hospitals, med­i­cal cen­tres and 25 per­cent con­ces­sion on all pri­vate hospitals and clin­ics.

The coun­cil will as­sist re­tired se­nior cit­i­zens in re­ceiv­ing their pen­sion-re­lated ben­e­fits and other dues from the de­part­ments and or­gan­i­sa­tions con­cerned.

The coun­cil will en­sure 50 per­cent con­ces­sion for se­nior cit­i­zens in road trans­port fares and 25 per­cent dis­count on pur­chase of goods, medicines, and es­sen­tial com­modi­ties.

The draft of the bill also states that 50 per­cent con­ces­sion will be pro­vided to se­nior cit­i­zens on both pub­lic and pri­vate within and in­ter-city trans­port. Be­sides, a con­ces­sion will be pro­vided on the tick­ets of Rail­ways and PIA on fill­ing pre­scribed forms.

The bill also en­vis­ages con­ces­sion of 25 per­cent on drugs and medicines for the treat­ment of age-re­lated ill­nesses of se­nior cit­i­zens.

The coun­cil will also en­sure the pro­vi­sion of 25 per­cent dis­count at recre­ation cen­tres, cine­mas, the­atres, vis­it­ing places in­clud­ing hos­tels, mo­tels, re­sorts, restau­rants, food points and lodg­ing es­tab­lish­ments.

It also en­sures pro­vi­sion of free ser­vices for fu­neral and burial on the death of a se­nior cit­i­zen by the lo­cal coun­cil.

It also pro­vides ex­emp­tion to se­nior cit­i­zen from train­ing fee for so­cio-eco­nomic pro­grammes.

The sec­tion 8 (1) of the bill en­vis­ages es­tab­lish­ment of old age homes in the province by the govern­ment in these words, “The govern­ment shall es­tab­lish and main­tain such num­ber of old age homes at ac­ces­si­ble places, as it many deem nec­es­sary, in a phased man­ner, be­gin­ning with at least one in each dis­trict to ac­com­mo­date in­di­gent se­nior cit­i­zens in such homes.”

The sub-sec­tion-2 of same sec­tion-8 reads “The govern­ment shall pre­scribe scheme for man­age­ment of old age homes in­clud­ing the stan­dards and var­i­ous types of ser­vices to be pro­vided by them which are nec­es­sary for med­i­cal care and means of en­ter­tain­ment to in­hab­i­tants of such homes.”

The Sindh Assem­bly also unan­i­mously passed into law the Sindh Bonded Labour Sys­tem (Abo­li­tion) Bill, 2015 for the abol­ish­ment of the prac­tice of bonded labour in the province.

The bill was adopted on ba­sis of the re­port on the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion by assem­bly’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on hu­man re­sources.

The bill pro­vides that who­ever, af­ter the com­mence­ment of this act, com­pels any per­son to ren­der any bonded labour, would be pun­ish­able with im­pris­on­ment for a term, which should not be less than two years and not more than five years and a fine, which should not be less than Rs100,000.

The bill fur­ther reads “Who­ever en­forces, af­ter the com­mence­ment of this Act, any cus­tom, tra­di­tion, prac­tice, con­tract, agree­ment or other in­stru­ment, by virtue of which any per­son or any mem­ber of his fam­ily is re­quired to ren­der any ser­vice un­der the bounded labour sys­tem, shall be pun­ish­able with im­pris­on­ment for a term which shall not be less than two years and not more than five years or with fine, which shall not be less than one lakh ru­pees, or with both and out of the fine, if re­cov­ered, pay­ment shall be made to the bonded labourer at the rate of not less than two hundred sixty nine ru­pees for each day for which bonded labour was ex­tracted from him.”

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