To Date: 18-12-09.
Shri Mukul Wasnik,
Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment,
Government of India, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-110001.
Sub: Reviewing the National Policy of Older Persons, 1999.
Ref: Your Ministry?s letter no. 15-37(6)/07-08/AG dt 20-11-09 in reply to my letter dt 27-5-09 to Prime Minister of India.
1. For our request to give a comprehensive plan for Senior Citizens covering all points enumerated in NPOP,99 and to create a Welfare Fund for Elders early, it has been advised in your above that 10 years have passed since the announcement of the Policy and that the Policy is being reviewed. It is hoped that the Policy is being reviewed after 10 years for making it more Elder-Friendly and not for adverse/down sizing amendments to this wonderful piece of Policy containing 98 Paras, covering all aspects of life of Elders of our Country. We request you to appoint a Committee of prominent Senior Citizens for this Review also, as was done for formation of this Policy.
2. As the Policy has not been implemented in right spirit by most of the Stake-Holders even after 10 years, resulting in Abuse of Elders of our Country, it is requested to propose a legislation defining the scope and duties of all Stake-Holders viz Nodal Ministry, other Central Ministries, State/UT authorities, Municipal-Panchayat authorities, Public Sector Undertakings, Major Corporates, Big Business Houses employing large number, Trusts, NGOs, Powerful Media etc. Even Chief Information Commissioner, Delhi expressed his displeasure on 27-6-08 in Case no. CIC/MA/A/2008/00645 of your Ministry that the Policy adopted is not effectively implemented resulting in Senior Citizens being deprived of the benefits assured to them. CIC directed your Ministry to clearly outline the Plan of Action & indicate its outcome for the LARGER BENEFITS OF THE SOCIETY. Your Ministry has not complied with this Statutory Directive of CIC, Delhi so far even after 18 MONTHS! While reviewing, the Nodal Ministry has to be provided with wide powers (teeth) to get implementation done as per fixed targets. This is absolutely necessary, as Nodal Ministry continues to be of the view that this Policy is only a guiding factor and its role is only of persuasive nature and it can not direct the implementing agencies to implement a particular provision within a fixed target ( Ministry?s letter of same no. dt 11-7-08). Most of Central Ministries feel and act indifferently and even give in writing that they are not concerned with this Policy and it is only the Nodal Ministry, which has to take action. Some Ministry has even said that they have not seen the Policy even in the year 2008-09! Most of the States & Union Territories have not yet adopted this Policy even after 10 years nor have constituted State Councils. No other Stake- Holders have been told in writing so far about their role in this Policy by Nodal Ministry or any other Ministry. Nodal Ministry is refusing/regretting to issue any instructions to any of these Stake-Holders but expects that they will do their part! Just as it is statutorily provided in Parents & Senior Citizen?s Welfare Act, 2007 to provide at least one Oldmen`s House(should be called Senior Citizens Homes) in each district, legislation must be provided to provide various facilities by Municipality/Panchayat/States within a stipulated time, as laid down in your Integrated Programme. Creation of a separate Ministry, as demanded by several Organizations may also be considered at this stage for expeditious implementation of this all-aspects-covering Policy. Separate Directorates must be provided in each Ministry and State/Municipal offices for Senior Citizens.
3. Majority of Senior Citizens are sober, introvert, aloof type, God fearing and resigned to FATE! Most are not inclined to adapt new active Life Style after retirement and many feel that now they have to rest and wait for their turn to go up etc! It is therefore necessary for the Government and the Society/Media to enthuse this lot of citizens, who are large in number and going to survive for long even without their wishing! Keeping in view the economic progress of the Country and deteriorating financial position of Senior Citizens due to reduction of interest rates and surmounting dearness for food items & bare necessities, Policy has to provide concrete action plans, if necessary by legislation also, to ensure financial security; healthy life; social interaction opportunities; proper utilization tasks for Senior Citizens ; more liberal provisions in all matters for older old(80 & above); special colonies for Senior Citizens; large number of Day Care Centers, Holiday Homes/Resorts/Convalescent Homes; concessions in entertainment places, travels, hotels, resorts etc; well defined detailed role of Media, early creation of National Association of Older Persons(NAOP) at Center & State/District/Locality level and fixing tasks to be carried out by such Associations. Little force/compulsion has to be used to get results and this should not be shied away, keeping in view how Smoking in trains & Public Places and Processions on Public Roads were curbed by force/legislation giving valuable advantages to the entire Community.
4. The following suggestions may also be kept in view, while reviewing this Grand Policy:-
i) No provision/para of this Policy may be deleted/downsized in any manner, as all Paras cover very important aspects of life of Senior Citizens.
ii) Demographic Trends: As per latest trends, number of Senior Citizens not only in India but in the entire World shall exceed number of Children/Youths in next few years. In view of this, the Policy has to be more liberal and more caring for elders, which will also form a big Electoral Force. The expectation of Policy,99 about life span of 67 years in 2011-16 has been surpassed and it may cross 100 in those years. Keeping in view this huge number with longer life span, Revised Policy should cater seriously for welfare of this and also provide different avenues of their useful utilization. As there will be large number of Older Old (above 80), special & specific provision for them in the Revised Policy shall be necessary.
iii) Financial Security: As we have adopted Global Capitalistic System, there shall be more poor and less rich and this can not be helped in view of the present trend of Economic Development. As there will be more BPL Senior Citizens and as the position of Above Poverty Line but not coming within Income Tax Limit Senior Citizens shall also be precarious, the Policy has to provide specific Financial Security for both the groups. The present system of classifying Senior Citizens as BPL is defective and needs immediate change, as detailed in my letter dt 13-10-09 to P.M. (copy enclosed ?Annexure I). The present quantum of Rs 200 by Central and similar contribution by State is a mockery of human being and World Organizations must be laughing at this gesture of such a wealthy country on way to become number one and as such sufficient pension for a human may be laid down in revised Policy for BPL & APL Senior Citizens. The proposed New Tax Law from 2011-12 is another blow on Financial Security of Senior Citizens and specific provisions in new Policy exempting Senior Citizens from adverse provisions shall be necessary, considering all points raised in my letter dt 12-9-09 (copy enclosed ?Annexure II). Unless, Nodal Ministry makes out a very strong case for Financial Security to all BPL & APL Senior Citizens, depicting the miseries they will be facing in the coming years with declining income and mounting expenditure for food & bear necessities, majority of Elders of our Country can not think of decent & dignified life. Employment should be allowed to be continued till Senior Citizens desire and are fit to work and age bar must be removed. Retired employees of the Government, Public Sector and big Business Houses must be statutorily provided same facilities as serving employees to avoid financial burden on only the Government. Even as per present Policy, all Departments and Employers should be asked to provide various facilities to their retired staff, as asked by Nodal Ministry to Railway Ministry as brought out in Annexure III.
iv) Health Care & Nutrition: As the Life-Span shall increase and number of older old increases, it will be necessary to provide more and more free/subsidized health services to all Senior Citizens. In addition to free service by State/Municipal Hospitals, Private Hospitals, Trusts etc will have to be made to provide subsidized service to Senior Citizens and pay special attention to Senior Citizens, if necessary by legislation. A controlling authority like IRDA shall be absolutely necessary for private Hospitals to control prices of various facilities, operations etc. In addition to present Health Insurance Schemes for unorganized sector BPL Senior Citizens, similar provision is required to be made for similar scheme for APL Senior Citizens also. Appropriate Medi-Claim Insurance with affordable premium from private sector for all Senior Citizens desiring the same should be provided, if necessary through proper legislation. Concrete steps to provide Geriatric Care, Physiotherapy, House Call System, Free/Subsidized Mid-Day Meals, Dinners etc for nutrition, as provided to children at present etc will have to be provided. Medicines must be provided at subsidized cost. Separate ques for Senior Citizens are not yet provided in any of Hospitals of Health Ministry at Delhi, which indicates the attitude of Central Ministries towards this Policy. Separate ques for Hospitals, Dispensaries, Pathological Laboratories, Private Clinics, Banks, Post Offices and all places requiring such ques must be provided, if necessary by legislation. Doctors & Para-Medical staff must be given special training for geriatric care and proper behavior with elders.
v) Shelter: Special colonies with full facilities should be provided by legislation instead of simply making a provision in the Policy for encouraging the private builders! Certain quotas in all buildings like Chief Minister?s quota must be provided for Senior Citizens. Just as specific space is to be left for garden etc in each colony by legislation, provision should be made for encouraging/enforcing all builders to provide special colonies and facilities for Senior Citizens. More & more houses should be available for Senior Citizens on rent basis. Housing Boards must also give preference to Senior Citizens. Big colonies must have Day Care Centers.
vi) Welfare & other areas: As stated earlier, most of Senior Citizens having inertia & having resigned to fate, it is necessary that they are encouraged/forced to become members of their Government recognized Associations of their locality and then only issued all-India Identity Cards for various concessions. This will ensure their social inter action and improve their life styles. Each Association at all levels should be assigned specific tasks like having full details of all Senior Citizens of their area (Census); Civic problems of their area (LAM); Social Programmes like Polio eradication; Participating in all advisory committees of State/Railway/Municipal/Banks etc; Inculcating Value Systems in children through lectures, programmes, picnics etc with school children continuously; helping in grievance solving of Senior Citizens & other citizens of area etc. Each Association should be provided with sufficient accommodation with usual facilities of Day Care Center with Gym / Physiotherapy facilities, Grant-in-Aid, ensuring sending by all concerned all orders/circulars affecting Senior Citizens. Your Web-Site and Web-Sites of all concerned must be kept up to date and should have on-line grievance recording with status position. Your Web-Site does not contain all the facilities/concessions given to Senior Citizens by your Ministry & all other stake holders, though provided in the Policy and proclaimed by your Ministry to contain all information. There is a need for your Ministry to publish a Monthly Magazine or a Newsletter giving all information from time to time. Sufficient reservation in Transport Services is not provided, which must be done keeping in view the good effect of traveling. Railways, though the lifeline of the country, have not provided any reservation for Senior Citizens, except 2 berths along with women of 45 years and that too when traveling alone! No separate coach in suburban trains inspite of repeated representations is provided, though special suburban trains are being provided day in and day out, though not going fully packed. Senior Citizens are more handicapped and more in numbers to handicapped but are deprived of this facility given to handicaps. Representations/complaints/ court cases of Senior Citizens are not being given any priority. There is much talk about PPP and CSR and advantage of this should be given for facilities to Senior Citizens by providing some compulsory/voluntary action by corporate world. New policy must provide for Self Development of Senior Citizens. Many more Nana-Nani Parks, Recreation Centers etc should be provided with time schedule.
vii) Media: No action is taken by Nodal or Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to involve Media for creating proper atmosphere in the Society or Government Machinery to highlight the problems of Senior Citizens, as laid down in the Policy,99. New Policy must realize the importance of this powerful IVth Estate of our Democracy and give specific tasks to Media. Each Newspaper must give one page/a corner every day or atleast some days in a week exclusively for matters pertaining to Senior Citizens. Each TV channel should also give a fixed slot every day for Senior Citizens. Ministry of I & B must also give programmes for Senior Citizens at fixed days and timings instead of any time they like, as is being done at present. They had asked for literature and soft wear etc related to issues pertaining to Senior Citizens in Inter-Ministerial Committee held on 28-3-07. In absence of such material by Nodal Ministry to various Stake Holders, it is difficult to provide programmes for Senior Citizens. Senior Citizens must be encouraged and paid honorarium for writing in Newspapers and participating in TV programmes.
viii) Implementation: Nodal Ministry & other Central Ministries and States have failed miserably to comply with various Paras (91 to 95) of Policy,99 for implementation, especially para 93, which gives unambiguous orders for implementation by fixing targets. New Policy, if necessary must give statutory orders to all Stake-Holders in clear terms to do their part of job sincerely, speedily and seriously. As NCOP and SCOVA etc have miserably failed, it is requested to form NAOP (National Association of Older Persons) laid down in para 96 with full powers to negotiate with you and specific duties, as enumerated above. Earlier this is done, it would be better for the Government, Society and Senior Citizens. Similar Associations at grass route levels may also be expedited.
It is hoped that review will not be finalized without consulting the prominent representatives of Senior Citizens and their Organizations and without notifying the proposed changes in media for information/comments of all citizens.