Elderly Rights in India

Author: Dhruv Kumar Bharadwaj, School of Law, Justice and Governance, Gautam Buddha University.

Co-author: Mukul Pachauri, Aligarh Muslim University

Abstract

Ageing is an inevitable phenomenon, everyone who live grew older at every moment of time. The old age bring physical, mental, and emotional weakness with it. It is a universal fact that the powerful person will exploit the weaker person; same is the case with old age people whose human rights are outrageously exploited in our society.

Across the globe various forms of exploitation and abuse to elderly rights have been observed. Particularly taking about India, which is second largest populated country in the world and where more than 100 million of people are above 60 year of age (i.e. elderly people), the exploitation and abuse to elderly is a serious problem which needs to be resolved promptly. It is important to protect, preserve and strengthen the old age people, because they are integral part of the society and have a right to live a life with human dignity.

Keywords:- ABUSE,AGENING, ELDERLY, EXPLOITATION,HUMAN DIGNITY, HUMAN RIGHTS

Introduction

“Trees grow stronger over the years, river wider, likewise, with age; human beings gain immeasurable depth and breadth of experience and wisdom. That is why older persons should be not only respected and revered; they should be utilized as the rich resources to society that they are”,

                                                                                                           Kofi Annan

                                                                                          (Secretary- General, United Nation.)

Old age people are the most important part of any society; they are the bridge which joint present generation with the customs, culture and tradition of the society. Moreover, old age people are profoundly honored due to their wisdom, knowledge, governance and beautiful guidance in tough situations.

In general every person face different kind of problems at every stage of life, like social problems, economic problem, health problems and psychological problems etc. but in old ages the people face gamut of problems at higher extent and with increased magnitude, which is the main reason of tribulation in old ages.

As rightly observed by Thomas Hobbes, Human beings have an element of selfishness in their nature. Human beings have a tendency of attachment to anything until it is useful for their own purpose and once the purpose is completed they do not care for it any more. The same trend is prevailing in the society with the old age people, who are harshly abused by selfish and greedy young generation of the society.

When we come to India, the culture of the country is famous for giving respect to the elders. But due to the impact of westernization and industrialization, the value system of people has degraded remarkably. It give birth to various social evils in India, one of such evils is abuse to elderly rights.

Inception

The problem of elder abuse was initially known as ―granny battering .It was first described in a British Scientific journal in 1975. In Australia this was recognized by late 1980s, in which most frequent form is financial abuse.

Old age had never been an issue in a country like India, where value system is so strong. Indian culture is highly respectful and supportive to elders. If we look at the ancient Vedic text, then as per Manusmriti

Any person who habitually salutes and regularly pays respect to the elder person, got an increment in four things which are; length of life, knowledge, fame and strength.[1]

Traditional Hindu families were joint families, where the head of family owes a duty to take care of all needs of elder persons. But with modernization, industrialization and globalization the structure of family change from joint family to nuclear family, and the problem of elderly abuse arose in India also.

Concept

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2002 defined elderly abuse as ‘a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person’.[2]

 Elderly abuse has been described as intentional actions that cause harm or risk of harm or as a caregiver‘s failure to satisfy the basic needs and safe living conditions of elders.

Types

Elderly abuse can be further classified as

  1. Physical
  2. Verbal
  3. Financial
  4. Neglect

Facts/summary of finding

In India the incidents of elderly abuse are growing day by day but still except census enumeration, the government lacks in collecting information regarding elderly abuse.

There are some nongovernmental organizations which are working in the field of elderly rights, Agewell foundation is one of them.  Agewell Foundation has interacted and surveyed over 5000 elder persons (i.e. above 60 year of age) across the country and attempted to assess the current status of human rights of an older person recently.

Major findings of the survey include-[3]

  • 85.9% of older persons had never heard about the Human Rights of Older Persons.
  • Over 23.3% of older persons were found living in inhuman conditions or in other words facing violation of their human rights in old age.
  • Every 8th elderly i.e. 12.9% of older persons revealed that they are not getting proper food in old age.
  • Approx every third elderly in the country is not getting proper medicine/health care in old age.
  •  Only 68.8% of older persons have access to necessary medicines, health care, and medical facilities.
  • Every second older person is not getting due respect or good treatment from his/her family member/society. 48.6% elderly are not being respected by their family members/ relatives and society.
  • 47.4% of older persons were discriminated because of their Age, they accepted that due to their age they were humiliated occasionally or treated disrespectfully
  • The popularity of nuclear/small families was found to be the main reason of the violation of human rights of older persons as 75.5% of older persons reportedly living in so good conditions were living alone or are from small/nuclear families.
  • Violation of Human Rights of older persons is higher in urban settings in comparison to villages. 65% older persons living in urban areas in comparison to 57% rural elderly reported that they had to go through a critical phase in their life or have to live in abject situations due to the violation of their basic human rights in old age.

In another report by a non-governmental organization ‘HELPAGE INDIA’, 5014 old age people were approached across 23 cities for an interview. Major findings of the survey include[4]

  • Nearly one-fourth (25%) elders have confirmed they have been a victim of Elder Abuse. There was almost no distinction between male and female elders.
  • Elder Abuse was reported maximum in Mangalore, Ahmadabad, Bhopal, Amritsar, Delhi, and Kanpur. It was least in Jammu, Mumbai, Vizag, Kochi, Guwahati.
  • The most common form of abuse they experienced was Disrespect (56%), Verbal Abuse (49%) and Neglect (33%). They had been facing this for the past 5 years.
  • The main abusers were Son (52%) and Daughter-in-law (34%).
  • The median age of abuser is 42 years.
  • At the national level, 41% of the elderly are aware of at least one redressal mechanism.
  • Around 35% of the elders were aware of police helpline, 11% were aware of MWPSC act (The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act), while 5% were aware of HelpAge helpline number.
  • More than 60% elderly agreed that quality time spent by their adult children as well grandchildren with them has decreased with an increase in the usage of phones/computers.
  • 65% elderly stated that extreme attention given to phones/ computers is disrespectful.
  • At the national level, 69% of the elderly have a house in their own name, 7% have a house in the spouse’s name, 3% are living with others and 20% are living on rent.
  • At the national level, 85% of the elderly are living with family, 8% are living with spouse only, 6% are living alone and 2% are living with relatives.

[1] Manusmriti chapter 2 verse 121

[2] World Health Organization (WHO),Missing Voices: Views of Older Persons on Elder Abuse, (2002)

[3] Agewell foundation, Annual report, 2017-18.

[4] Helpage India, Elder abuse in India- Changing Cultural Ethos and Impact of Technology,2018

Causes of abuse-

Why do abusers, abuse the elderly? Virtually the entire community believed that the lack of moral and value system is the most obvious reason for Evil treatment with elder people. Majority blames westernization as the sole reason for maltreatment of elderly but some thinks it depends upon the individual.

Elders perceive that they are mainly abused as their children want to live independently and prefer nuclear family, thinks them as burden, don’t like their way of living, due to property related issues, lack of resources to fulfill their needs, Pension amount is entitled to their name  and even just because of interference in the family matters.

According to the report of HelpAge India reason of abuse are as follows[1]

CategoriesNational levelTier 1Tier 2
Issue of Property22%23%22%
Fixed Deposit linked in my name7%7%7%
The pension amount is entitled to my name11%13%10%
My family want to live independently26%30%25%
Lack of resources to meet my financial needs22%24%21%
Think me as a burden due to my old-age related issues25%23%25%
Family do not like my way of living23%25%22%
My interference in family matters10%11%9%
Total number1278316962

Why elder do not approach help

According to the report of help age India[2]:-

CategoriesHave you made any attempt to report these incidents to any person/agency?Total Number of people
                                              NoYes                            
National level82%18%1278
Tier-181%19%316
Tier-282%18%962

The data of the report clearly shows that most of the people do not report the incidents of elderly abuse, there are various reasons for this. The first reason in the Indian society is social status, most of the elders felt ashamed to approach help and afraid of retaliation by their family members. Lack of believe in the credibility of agencies is also the reason behind their reluctance in approaching help.

 Another important reason is Illiteracy among elders. Around 30% of elders in urban areas are matric/secondary and above, on the other hand in rural areas this rate is only 7%. Illiterate old people are unaware of their rights, policies, and laws which can help them when required, therefore do not approaches help.


[1]Helpage India, Elder abuse in India- Changing Cultural Ethos and Impact of Technology,2018

[2] Helpage India, Elder abuse in India- Changing Cultural Ethos and Impact of Technology,2018

Legal protection

  1. Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior  Citizens Act, 2007

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was enacted in December 2007, to provide maintenance support to elderly parent and senior citizens with the help of maintenance tribunals. The Act shall come into force in a State on such date as the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint. So far, all the States and UTs have notified the Act. It extends whole of India except the state of J & k and it applies also to a citizen of India outside India.[1]

  • The Act provides for:
    • Maintenance of Parents/ senior citizens by children/ relatives made obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals.
    • Revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in case of negligence by relatives.
    • Penal provision for the abandonment of senior citizens.
    • Establishment of Old Age Homes for Indigent Senior Citizens.
    • Protection of life and property of senior citizens.
    • Proper medical facilities for Senior Citizens.
  • Protection Under the constitution of India

The constitutional provisions which are provided to elder citizens are as follows:-

  1. Article 21:-  Right to life which is guaranteed under article 21 is constructed by the courts which prohibit elderly abuse and encompasses rights to senior citizens such to right to health, right to dignity, right to shelter, right to adequate pension.
  2. Article 41:- This article of the Constitution secures the right of senior citizens to employment, education and public assistance. It also ensures that the state must uphold these rights in cases of disability, old age or sickness. 
  3. Article 46:- This Article of the constitution asserts that the educational and economic rights of the elderly must be protected by the state.

 However, these provisions of constitution came under the Directive principle of state policy hence not enforceable in any court of law but impose a positive obligation of the state.

  • Protection under personal law
  • Hindu law:-

As per section 20 of THE HINDU ADOPTIONS AND MAINTENANCE ACT, 1956 it is The obligation of a person to maintain his or her aged or infirm parent or daughter who is unmarried extends in so far as the parent or the unmarried daughter, as the case may be, is unable to maintain himself or herself out of his or her own earnings or other property, Where the term parent include childless stepmother.[2]

  • Muslim law:-

Muslims are also legally entitled to maintain their parents, provided, they have the means to do so. A son is entitled to maintain his mother even under “strained” circumstances, if she is poor, even if not “infirm”. The son is also bound to maintain his father if he is earning nothing. There exists no concept of adoption under Muslim laws. Hence, there exist no provisions for the maintenance of adoptive parents under Muslim law.

  • Christian and Parsi Laws

Under Christian and Parsi personal law there is no such provision for maintenance for the parents.  Parents who seek maintenance have to apply under the criminal procedure code.

  • Under the code of criminal procedure

Section 125 under the Cr.P.C. 1973 deals with the maintenance of old parents. Under this section, old parents, irrespective of their religion can seek maintenance. As per Section 125(1) of Cr.P.C. 1973 if any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain his father or mother, unable to maintain himself or herself, a Magistrate of the first class may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his father or mother, at a monthly rate as the magistrate thinks fit, and to pay the same to such person as the Magistrate may from time to time direct [3]

Different ministries and their policies for the protection and upliftment of elderly people-

  1. Ministry of social justice and empowerment
    1. The policy and programs for senior citizens are developed and implemented by the ‘senior citizen division’ in the social defense bureau of the department of social justice and empowerment, in collaboration with state government, non-governmental organization, and civil society.
    1. IPOP (Integrated Program for Older Persons) is a central sector scheme implemented by the ministry of social justice and empowerment since 1992, which was renewed in 2008 and new projects were added for the welfare of senior citizens. The projects assisted by IPOP scheme are as follow-
      1. Maintenance of Old Age Homes;
      1. Maintenance of Respite Care Homes;
      1. Running of Multi Service Centers for Older Persons;
      1. Mobile Medicare Unit;
      1. Day Care Centre for Care of Old Person with Dementia;
      1. Multi-Facility Care Centre for Older Widows;
      1. Physiotherapy Clinics;
      1. Regional Resource and Training Centers;
      1. Help lines and Counseling for Older Persons;
      1. Programme for Sensitization Schools/College Student;
      1. Awareness Projects for Older Persons;
      1. Volunteers Bureau for Older Persons;
      1. Formation of VridhaSanghas/Senior Citizen Associations/Self Help Groups;
      1. Any other activity, which is considered suitable to meet the objective of the Scheme
  • Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana

This scheme provides the physical aid and assisted living devices to the senior citizens belonging to BPL category, who are suffering from any age-related disability like hearing impairment, low vision, loss of teeth and Locomotor disability. the aim of this scheme is to help such senior citizens to overcome their disability.

  • Ministry of rural development –

 Indra Gandhi national old age pension scheme is implemented by the ministry of rural development, under this scheme pension of 200 rupees per month is given to person above 60 years, and 500 rupees per month pension to the person above 80years  belonging to the category of below poverty line. State and Union territories have requested to contribute at least the same amount under the scheme.

  • MINISTRY OF HEALTH AND FAMILY WELFARE:-

 Ministry of health and family welfare provides:-

  1. Facility of separate queues for senior citizens.
  2. Facility of Geriatric clinic in government hospitals
  3. Ministry implemented ‘National program for health care for the elderly’ (NPHCE) for free specialized health care facilities for elderly people through state health delivery system.
  • Ministry of Finance

The ministry of Finance provides:-

  1. Insurance benefits

Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) issued instructions to CEOs of all General Health Insurance Companies on health insurance for senior citizens which, includes:

  • Allowing entry into the health insurance scheme till 65 years of age.
  • Transparency in the premium charged.
  • Reasons to be recorded for denial of any proposals etc. on all health insurance products catering to the needs of senior citizens. Likewise, insurance companies cannot deny renewability without specific reasons.
  • Tax Benefits

The Ministry provides the following facilities for senior citizens for the Assessment Year 2016-17:

  • Income tax exemption up to 3 lakh per annum for senior citizens of 60 and above.
  • Income tax exemption up to Rs. 5.0 lakh per annum for Senior Citizens of 80 years and above.
  • As per Section 80D of Income tax act Deduction of Rs 30,000 is allowed to an individual who pays a medical insurance premium for his/ her parent or parents, who is a senior citizen.
  • An individual is eligible for a deduction of the amount spent or Rs 60,000, whichever is less for medical treatment of a dependent senior citizen suffering from specified diseases. For senior citizens of 80 years and above the limit is Rs 80,000.
  • Varistha Pension Bima Yojna (VPBY)

This is a social scheme for senior citizens intended to give an assured minimum pension on guaranteed minimum return on subscription amount.

  • Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojna

This scheme provides social security during old age. This is a simplified version of VPBY and will be implemented by LIC. Under this scheme senior citizens will get a guaranteed return of 8% for 10 years.

  • Ministry of Civil Aviation

The national carrier, Air India provides up to 50% fare concession of economy class for senior citizen of 63 and above on production of proof of age.

  • Ministry of  Railways

Ministry of railways provides following facilities to senior citizens:-

  1. Separate ticket counters for a person of 60 and above at various passenger reservation system.
  2. Provision of a lower berth to the male passenger of 60 and above, and for female passengers for 45 and above.
  3. 40%, 50% concession in basic rail fare for 60 years and above male, 58 years and above female respectively.
  4. Facility of wheelchairs at stations for old age persons.

Conclusion

Every person grew older with the passage of time and there is no method to get rid of old age as elucidated by Lucius Annaeus Seneca “Old age is incurable disease”. But even if the old age is incurable, it does not mean that we cannot alleviate the problems of old people, Elders didn’t demand much from us. They simply requested us for some politeness in tongue and time to listen and consider their wish, as Sir James Sterling Ross observed “You cannot heal the old age, you protect it, you promote it, and you extend it”.

The major cause of violation of elderly rights in India is due to lack of awareness of their own rights. As per the report of Agewell Foundation, 85.9% of older persons had never heard about the Human Rights of Older Persons. As per another report given by HELP-AGE INDIA, at the national level, 49% of the elderly are not aware of at least one redressal mechanism for the rights of older person. This lack of awareness regarding elderly rights and there abuse is due to the deficiency of published data and research of elderly abuse in India, there is no governmental organization which collect proper data on elderly abuse.

Another important observation regarding the violation of elderly rights is that elder people themselves do not want to approach help, the social stigma attached to the elderly abuse restrict people from reporting the incidents of elderly abuse. Apart from social stigma, lack of awareness, illiteracy and emotional attachment are some other reasons which do not allow elder people to report such incidents. Moreover the economical aspect of life is also a major cause of elderly abuse. Some people in the greed of money and property commit such heinous acts, while some people feel old people financial burden upon them.

Simply exhibiting the data is not sufficient to deal with the problem. The solution to this toilsome problem lies in rise of moral and ethical values of people and by enhancing the awareness of people regarding legal provisions for the protection of elder person .The community, especially youths are need to be sensitized. Inter-personal relationship among family members should be strengthened. Elderly helpline and redressal mechanism should effectively work.

It is very disastrous to see our roots and very foundation in pain which holds us in every good and evil. We hope that this paper would contribute in alleviation of condition of elders and make this planet a happy place to live.

References

  1. Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 (ACT NO. 2 OF 1974)
  2. Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior  Citizens Act, 2007 56 of 2007
  3. The Constitution Of India.
  4. THE HINDU ADOPTIONS AND MAINTENANCE ACT, 1956 [Act No.78 of 1956]
  5. Mishra, A.J. and Patel, A.B. (2013) Crimes against the Elderly in India: A Content Analysis on Factors causing Fear of Crime. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences , 8, 13- 23.
  6. Elderly In India – Profile and Programmes 2016 (Central Statistics Office Ministry of Statistics and Programmes Implementation Government of India) http://www.mospi.gov.in
  7. Agewell foundation, Annual report, 2017-18.
  8. Census of India (2011) Provisional Census.  censusindia.gov.in
  9. Help Age India, “A HelpAge India National Report – 2017”, 2017
  10. Helpage India, “Elder abuse in India- Changing Cultural Ethos and Impact of Technology”,2018
  11. World Health Organization (WHO), Elder Abuse in India: Country Report ,
  12. World Health Organization (WHO), “Missing Voices: Views of Older Persons on Elder Abuse”, (2002)
  13. Economic times, Over 71 % senior citizens in India victim of abuse by family members : Survey , New Delhi [ dated 13th June, 2019]
  14. Times of India: Every third senior citizen in India abused, mainly by son: Study, New Delhi. [dated 9th Jan 2018]
  15. The Hindu, ‘Sons are foremost perpetrators of elder abuse’, Bengaluru  [dated 14th june ,2018]

[1] Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior  Citizens Act, 2007 56 of 2007

[2] THE HINDU ADOPTIONS AND MAINTENANCE ACT, 1956 [Act No.78 of 1956]

[3] Section 125, Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 (ACT NO. 2 OF 1974)