In stark contrast to the palpable excitement over the Godavari Pushkarams, there could be a darker side to the mammoth religious gathering, fear a few sections of people.
Every 12 years, the river plays host to a vast gathering of pilgrims that throng the bathing ghats from across the world “to wash away their sins in the sacred river”. But, a section of senior citizens who face abuse from family members at home see a flip side to it. Their family members may take advantage of the swirling crowds to abandon them at the ghats.
“Families ditching elder relatives in the crowd is a common practice during Maha Kumbh. We may not have registered such cases here in the past, but fears of some senior citizens who face abuse in the hands of family members are not unfounded,” says Mothukuri Venkateswara Rao, secretary of Krishna District Senior Citizens’ Welfare Association. “Old people have become useless, the family members don’t want to look after them, so they may leave them at the Godavari Pushkarams and go,” says Mr. Rao citing an alarming spurt in cases related to abuse of the elderly.
“Value of property post-bifurcation has increased manifold, and this is bringing an increasing number of senior citizens under tremendous pressure by their children for transfer of property in their name. We want the officials engaged in Pushkaram duties to lay special emphasis on safety of senior citizens at the venues,” he said.
Anticipating such tragedies and to avert them, All-India Senior Citizens’ Confederation (AISCCON) has constituted a special batch of volunteers to keep a constant vigil at the ghat and prevent any such incidents. “The fear exists among some of them. We are trying to allay their apprehensions by making special arrangements for them. At Kotilingala ghat in Rajahmundry, we are organising free meals for senior citizens. We have asked our volunteers to remain alert to the possibility of people trying to get rid of ‘unwanted’ elderly family members by abandoning them at the ghats,” said Ch. Parameswara Reddy, president of AISCCON.
Mr. Reddy feels that the problem may be more in Telangana State where the concept of joint families with the elders holding property rights is in vogue.