Aging is inevitable, and it doesn’t pardon anyone. The process of growing older brings with it lots of changes in appearance, health, financial situation and retirement. This is usually a turning point in the lives of many people. However, old age does not have to be a worrisome stage in our lives and the Government of India has made sure about that. It has taken some initiatives for senior citizens in India and to promote their welfare and well being.
Caring for the elderly is one of the many virtues that the Constitution of India aims to promote through its various Acts. The government aims to protect the rights of senior citizens in India as they are one of the fastest growing sections of the entire population. The trend suggests that India is growing old at a much faster rate than expected. According to the latest studies, by 2050 nearly 20 percent population of India will consist of people above 60. This means that India will have more than 32 crore senior citizens, which is much more than the total population of the United States. Therefore, it is important to understand the challenges of old age will soon become a major social issue that must be tackled with utmost caution and care.
Many times, the struggles of fast-lane life make it difficult for the younger generation to pay the much-needed attention to their parents. This leaves senior citizens feeling abandoned, forcing to tackle the problems of aging on their own. This often leads to feelings of despair and loneliness in them and sometimes even result in disastrous events. Therefore, the government has created some provisions to safeguard and protect the legal rights of senior citizens in India.
Rights of Senior Citizens in India
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act:
Not too long ago, the Government of India enacted this legislation. In the year 2007, the act was introduced by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in order to protect and provide for the senior citizens in India in a more effective manner. This acts views maintenance and welfare for parents and senior citizens as a legal obligation of the child or a relative. This act is a move toward empowering the elders of India. Under the purview of this act, senior citizens unable to manage their expenditure out of their jobs or property can claim monthly allowance from their children, be it a son or a daughter. In addition, this empowers the senior citizens with an inexpensive and speedy procedure to protect their life and property. The law does not only see the children responsible for the senior citizens but also hold relative, who is the legal heir of a childless elderly, responsible. This senior citizen act sees all children lawfully obligated to maintain parents—mother, father, stepfather or stepmother.
As per the act, the child must provide the maintenance as prescribed by the State Government and shall not exceed Rs. 10,000 per month. The maintenance must include food, shelter, clothing, medical attendance, and treatment. If children or relative refuse or fail to provide the maintenance, then the elderly can seek assistance from senior citizen tribunal constituted under this Act for speedy remedial action.
One of the few constitutional provisions, Article 41 gives the state to protect and provide the right to employment, education and public assistance to unemployed, sick and senior citizens in India. This right envisages every citizen to maximize the opportunity to work, educate and seek public assistance within the capacity of the state.
Under this Article, the constitution directs the state to take special care for the promotion of education and economic interests of all the sections of the society including the elderly. It also aims to protect the weaker sections from all forms of social injustice and exploitation.
These provisions are stated as Part IV under the Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP), a guideline to the state mentioned in the Constitution of India. As stated in Article 37, these provisions are mere guidelines and cannot be enforced by any court of law.
Personal Religion Laws:
Many religions in India recognize providing maintenance and protection to parents as the lawful duty of children. Through their personal laws, these religions aim to promote the well being of old and poor parents.
According to Hindu Personal Law, under Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 parents have the legal right to claim maintenance from son or daughter if they cannot maintain themselves. The law includes both natural and adoptive parents.
As per Muslim law, children must provide for the basic needs of food, cloth, shelter, and medicine, to parents if they are poor. However, since the concept of adoption is absent in the Muslim community, there is no mention of adoptive parents.
Code of Criminal Procedure:
In 1973, a special provision under the Code of Criminal Procedure was introduced. Under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, it is the legal obligation of son and daughter, irrespective of her marital status must provide for parents who are unable to maintain themselves out of to their financial capacity. In the eyes of the Code of Criminal Procedure, parents must be able to prove the lack of means to maintain themselves and the child must have the necessary means to maintain them.
National Policy for Older Persons, 1999:
Among many other senior citizen benefits in India, this is one of the latest moves to empower the elderlies and promote better living situations for them. It encourages the State Government to take measures to improve the quality of life and provide them with basic necessities and concessions. It envisages the government to build health and shelter care for the senior citizens in India.
Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS):
Under Nation Social Assistance Programme by the Ministry of Rural Development, this pension scheme extends social assistance to the aged. This is one of the few senior citizen benefits in India that promises to provide financial assistance to persons above 60 and belongs to below poverty line. It provides monthly allowance within the capacity of the state.
The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana:
This government scheme was launched in 2017 to provide social security to senior citizens in India. This is implemented by Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India and it guarantees to provide monthly income on the initial lump sum money at the rate of return of 8% per annum. The person can claim the money monthly/quarterly/half-yearly/annually.
Other Senior Citizen Benefits in India
Under the senior citizens’ tax benefit, people above 60 can avail concessions in tax payment. Income tax slab for seniors is different than the general public. For senior citizens earnings up to 3 lakhs and for super seniors earning up to 5 lakhs are tax-free. They are even allowed a deduction up to 30,000 on the payment of medical insurance premium and up to 60,000 if anyone is suffering from severe illness.
Meanwhile, Railway ministry and Aviation Ministry has laid down special guidelines for assistance during travel. In addition, the special concession is offered on railway and airline fare.
The government is constantly working towards creating a better future for this precious section of our society. However, as per the government of India, it is the duty of everyone to care and help senior citizens in India with the challenges that come with aging.