Sunday, 6 February 2011

Problems of the elderly - part 2: Exclusive social security department need of the hour

By Syed Akbar
India boasts of being the largest democracy in the world and yet it does not have an exclusive social security
department. The subject of "social security" is shared by various ministries like labour, agriculture and social justice and empowerment, but the Central government has never thought of opening an exclusive department for social security. The existing departments are already overburdened with their regular work and  are often left with little time to attend to the social security issue.
The Centre has washed off its hands by introducing national oldage pension scheme, which  ensures that Rs 400 each is given to the old every month. There has been no revision of the amount despite prices of essential commodities shooting up by several times over the years.
This amount does not reach every deserving old person in the country. Even if the scheme  reaches some, the money is not paid every month. There have been several instances where oldage pension is paid  in arrears after several months, making a mockery of the human rights.
Argues N Ashwani Kumar, advocate specialising in Constitutional laws, "the elderly should  be treated as a separate class to protect their rights. If need be, Constitution should be amended to provide them  with special rights".
He suggests that there should be a separate department in government hospitals for the  old on the lines of geriatrics medical wards in developed nations. "There should be an exclusive social security  department where the old can just walk in and lodge their grievances. The SS department should be given enough teeth and  enforcing authority to protect the elderly and ensure that their human rights to live are safeguarded," Ashwani  Kumar said.
According to National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, because most of the old in the country are without income, they need support either from their children or the government. The NIHFW attributes the increase in the elderly population in the country to sharp decline in mortality since 1950 and a steady 
recent decline in fertility.
The need for an exclusive department for social security assumes significance as the  NIHFW predicts increase in the population of the elderly including the old without work. "The proportion of elderly  people not working will increase
in the coming decades. About 72 per cent of the elderly population are not expected to be working in the country."

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