ADDRESSING SIGNIFICANT ISSUE…?

What an irony that India being a nation that traditionally enjoyed a robust joint family system, in today’s fast changing socio-economic conditions of the present era is witnessing the fading away of this system that was based on the most precious humanitarian values. This is in fact the most significant social issue that needs to be addressed with utmost seriousness, sincerity and dedication today. The issue often comes to limelight during national as well as state level conferences pertaining to senior citizens and their problems in the current scenario with changed life styles and living patterns. The most serious concern that often comes to fore nowadays is that of adult children abandoning their parents, besides the abhorrent neglect and abuse of the elderly. It is a fact that despite various enactments in force, the number of cases of children abandoning their elderly parents across the nation is on the rise. Aghast, this is happening despite the fact that the great Indian civilisation had always been proud of the way elders were treated and it was the prime duty of the youngsters to take care of the elderly besides their being an inherent social security in Indian joint family system for member of every age. The children of the family developed deep ties with their grandparents and often turned to them for guidance and solace in troubled times. The elderly, in turn, never felt any dearth of love and companionship. There was a kind of symbiosis that held joint families together in comfort and security. However, with the emergence of nuclear families today where both husband and wife are working there are frequent, pressing financial crises as a result of which the elderly are getting more and more neglected, and hence their care and dignity getting adversely affected. Moreover, the senior citizens are quite easy targets for criminals, cheaters and looters and the degree of their vulnerability on this count rockets high in case such citizens are abandoned by their children. Therefore the law enforcement agencies and the justice system must be sensitized to the plight of the elderly so that they can take prompt and effective action. In the existing scenario, wherever family system fails in its duty to protect the elderly; the community, civil society and the government have to step in to fill the vacuum. Article 41of the Constitution says that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for social security for the elderly the right to public assistance in case of old age. Undoubtedly this provision is an important segment of Directive Principles of State Policy but at the same time there is a dire need to give meaning to this policy intent in true letter and spirit. There is a need to implement other laws including the Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Act more effectively. These enactments also need to be reviewed to cope up with the present day social realities. Moreover, to mitigate the problems of senior citizens, one should not look up to the government alone. Senior Citizens associations, federations, NGOs, all retirement-related agencies like retirement communities, elder care homes, Self Help Groups and last but not the least the corporate houses should join to support seniors’ cause. The corporate sector can play a lead role in this campaign by expanding the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity towards elders’ issues and quite a lot can be achieved in a short time. This can definitely help in keeping seniors active and engaged with sufficient opportunities to work beyond retirement thus ensuring their productive ageing.