Special concessions for destitute widows and widowers who enter into matrimonial alliance after 60 years, raising the retirement age and tax exemptions are some of the recommendations made by a parliamentary panel for the welfare of the elderly population.
The committee, which tabled its report in the Lok Sabha, has recommended that retirement age be increased from 60 to 65, citing the increase in ageing population and its productivity.
“The committee would like the Ministry (Social Justice and Empowerment) to seriously consider the various options which would include reviewing the age of retirement, re-employment opportunities for the retired persons, and setting up a directorate of employment and rehabilitation for senior citizens,” it said.
The Standing Committee headed by Hemanand Biswal noted that the population of senior citizens is expected to rise to 12.4 per cent by 2026 against 7.5 per cent in 2001. The numbers of those above 60 and 80 years of age would see a whopping increase of 326 per cent and 700 per cent respectively by 2050.
Old age homes
The senior citizens should get a pension of at least Rs. 1,000 per month, it said.
It has also reiterated its earlier recommendation that old-age homes be set up in all districts. The government may so integrate their welfare programmes that the elders in old age homes/service apartments are able to interact and educate the children in orphanages or schools.
The Committee noted that the Ministry of Finance also provided certain concessions to senior citizens in terms of income tax exemption, which is Rs. 2.50 lakh per annum to persons above 60 years and Rs. 5 lakh to persons above 80. The Committee felt that the exemption should be raised periodically keeping in view the increasing cost of living.
The Committee noted that the National Policy for Senior Citizens recognises productive ageing as the key to the welfare of senior citizens. With the increase in life expectancy and relatively better state of health of people, the government need to look at continuity of employment up to 65 years/or greater post-retirement opportunities for senior citizens so that society continues to draw upon their experience and talent, it felt.
The Committee took serious note of underutilisation of allocated funds under the Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP) scheme, as programmes/projects such as running of old age homes, day care centres and Mobile Medicare Units have grievously suffered.
Appreciative of the government resolve to improve the coverage of National Programme for the Health Care of the Elderly (NPHCE), the Committee recommended that geriatric healthcare should be extended to all the districts of the country, super speciality hospitals be set up exclusively for geriatric care in all the State capitals, wide publicity be given to the scheme so that the senior citizens become aware of the facilities in the various regional and district Hospitals for them.