Lack of uniformity in travel concessions for senior citizens, increasing the pension amount paid by State governments and increased allocation by the Centre for senior citizen's welfare were some of the issues highlighted by participants at a meeting to review the National Policy on Older Persons here on Tuesday.

Explaining schemes introduced by the State government for the welfare of senior citizens, P. Rama Mohana Rao, Secretary, Social Welfare Department, said his Department had proposed construction of a model old age home, which could accommodate 300 senior citizens and provide them medical and recreational facilities. The State government had earmarked 10 acres near Thundalkazhani near Padappai for the home and sent a proposal to the Centre seeking allocation of Rs.8 crore to create the facility.

He said that many non-governmental organisations were working in co-ordination with the State to provide facilities for senior citizens. Some of them were getting aid from abroad. Recently, funding from abroad had stopped and the NGOs were finding it difficult to run the homes. The Centre should fund such NGOs.

Senior citizens from Tamil Nadu said that the pension for senior citizens was introduced in 1962 with a monthly sanction of Rs.40. Nearly five decades later, the State was paying old age pension of Rs.400, which must be enhanced. The State should introduce concessions as done by the Centre.

Efforts should be made to introduce geriatric-related courses at under-graduate and post-graduate levels. Geriatric wards should be created in all the primary health centres in the State as senior citizens in rural areas had to travel long distances to get medical assistance.

Senior citizen representatives from Karnataka pointed out that in Kerala the Indian Red Cross Society was running old age homes. With the Society having branches all over district in every State, the facility could be extended to other States. Panchayati Raj institutions functioning in the States should be roped in to provide help to senior citizens in rural areas.

Another important issue discussed at the meeting was mercy killing of senior citizens. As most of these incidents took place within the family they were rarely brought to light. Steps should be taken to end the menace, the participants opined.

Mohini Giri, Member, National Commission for Older Persons and Chairperson, Review Committee, National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP)1999; M.M. Shabarwal and K.R. Gangadharan, Review Committee NPOP 1999 members, were among those who participated.

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