A glistening chauffeur-driven luxury car comes to a halt outside a building in Lajpat Nagar. A tall elderly man steps out in a crisp safari suit. He saunters up a flight of stairs and enters an office. On meeting the man present there, this confident-looking man simply breaks down. Only a little while earlier he had been slapped seven times by his son. The reason? His grandson, whom he was teaching social sciences, had failed by seven marks.
The counsellor tells the elderly man, who owns one of the few 1,000 square metre bungalows in the tony Defence Colony area and has a thriving business in Connaught Place, to register a case against his son. He refuses.
“After all, he is my son. Knowledge about the episode will only bring him a bad name and make people think I did not impart the right values.”
The beatings became a regular feature thereafter.
While for many this may be shocking, but Himanshu Rath of Agewell Foundation insists that instances of children beating their parents are on the rise.
“But the sad part is that despite such ill-treatment, many elderly persons are happy to just be with their children. After all they consider themselves more fortunate than those staying away from their children.”
Ironically, Mr. Rath says, these days the educated and the rich suffer much more. “It is a dichotomy. If you are rich and educate your children, the chances of having a lonelier old age are more, whereas children who are unable to go away and not so bright tend to stick more to their parents due to their own insecurities.”
The foundation recently urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to step in and protect senior citizens from harassment by getting all business houses to include old age issues into their corporate social responsibility initiatives; to establish a separate national institute for treatment and research in age related ailments; to set up a National Fund for the Aged (on the lines of National Fund for Rural Development) and constitute a National Commission for the Aged (on the lines of National Human Right’s Commission) to advise various Ministries/departments on adopting friendly policies and protecting the interests of the aged.
While major policy initiatives are needed to protect the rights and interest of the aged, at the ground level the aged believe greater sensitivity is all they need to survive well in their old age.
“My mother Meenakshi always wanted to lead an independent life and operated her own pension account till she passed away in December at the age of 81. But every year she had to visit the State Bank of India main branch at Parliament Street to get a ‘life certificate’. Since her car was not allowed in, she faced great difficulty in climbing the stairs there. Often I had to accompany her and urge the staff to see her in person in the car parked below. On her own, she could not have managed to even renew her certificate. And even though all branches are computerised, the elderly are not allowed to issue bearer cheques for any branch other than their parent branch,” says 59-year-old Tulu Patnaik, insisting that this causes a lot of harassment to pensioners.
“We can surely walk the extra mile to help senior citizens and give them some dignity,” he adds.
R.P. Singh, a 65-year-old mathematics teacher, insists much needs to be done to make the lives of senior citizens better.
“I had bought some shares and the company claimed it had sent me the certificates. But I never received them. To get duplicate certificates issued, I was told to get an FIR registered. But the Srinivaspuri police refused to lodge a complaint on the ground that it was the responsibility of the company to get it lodged. It was only when I pulled the right strings that the complaint was registered. The police could have surely saved a senior citizen a lot of harassment by acting promptly in the matter,” says Mr. Singh, who himself works as a volunteer for the elderly.
In fact, many senior citizens are now coming forward to help their ilk. Another volunteer T.R. Khetarpal says he “enjoys working for senior citizens” and believes strongly that the police need to be sensitised towards their needs. Though 82-years-old, Mr. Khetarpal travels by bus all the way from Janakpuri to Lajpat Nagar to work with an NGO.
“It keeps me busy and productively occupied. Besides, this work gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”
Till the end of 2012, as many as 15,644 senior citizens were registered with the Delhi Police. But Mr. Rath says these constitute just about one per cent of their total population.
Little wonder, the elder remain vulnerable. While some get conned at ATMs or through electronic banking, others get cheated while even operating their life insurance policies. One such person was 63-year-old Laxman Parvadi, who never thought that his cheque for payment of premium on an existing policy with Birla Sunlife in April this year would be routed by unscrupulous agents for creating a new life policy — only because they get a higher commission on a new policy premium. He has since been busy corresponding with the insurer and NGOs to get his money back.