Laws on paper
It took a former Union Law minister to move the Supreme Court recently, pointing out that there are as many as six Central laws to protect the rights of old, infirm and sick people, but none of these are being implemented. Taking up for hearing the PIL filed by former Law minister and Congress leader Ashwani Kumar, the apex court has now asked the Central government why these laws could not be enforced. The petitioner has argued that old age homes should be set up in every district, and more senior citizens ought to be covered under old-age schemes. But the opposite has been the case, with the number of aged beneficiaries dwindling and even budgetary allocations for such schemes slashed over the years. There has been no effort by the government to involve the corporate sector under corporate social responsibility (CSR) to help out in schemes for the old — the PIL contends. The Supreme Court has agreed to first listen to what the Central government has to say on the matter, and then lay down broad parameters before seeking the views of state governments. It is a fact that in 2007, the government while tabling the ‘Maintence and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens’ bill in the Lok Sabha, conveniently put the onus of caring for the aged on their family or legal heirs, while neatly side-stepping any role of the state in providing public assistance to senior citizens, or specifying how they will get maintence. Governments may tom-tom the ‘demographic dividend’ which India is presently enjoying, with over 60 percent of its population in the working age group. But by 2025, the proportion of senior citizens in the population will cross 18 percent. The country will be confronting a serious problem thereafter.