March 4, 2019
At the Coimbatore District Collectorate Office every Monday, one can spot at least five to senior citizens, aged 70 and above enter the offices to catch the attention of anyone who can help them.
Monday was no different. The Covai Post spotted two old women in their 70s petitioning for the Tamil Nadu government’s Old age pay scheme.
Dhana Bakiyam, 70-year-old widow has taken refuge in Coimbatore Government Hospital for the past 40 days. She told us that her three sons have taken away all her money that their father left for her and ousted her from her own house. Her husband had partitioned the house and gave it to everyone, but she was ousted from her portion. Now, she fends for herself on the streets.
He had recently undergone four surgeries and walks with a slight limp. She was seen with a ragged bag of clothes, which she carries with her wherever she goes.
“I educated my third son, selling all my jewels” she cried. “My daughter-in-laws’ are well educated and placed well. But they are not willing to even give me one meal, a day. When they were young, I didn’t treat them well, now they are taking revenge,” she rued. She was inconsolable all through her confession and was very scared to even speak to us. Her sons have abused her physically when they heard that she had spoken to new channels.
Valliammal, 76 year old suffering from mild dementia, somehow found her way to Collector’s office from Chinniyampalayam, Coimbatore with the help of her neighbours. She was seen walking with a help of stick and was assisted by a good-hearted college student, who wrote a petition for her to submit to the collector’s office. She stated that her home was demolished by her son, while she was living in it. “He promised to take care of me till I die, but now has abandoned me in a depleted house”, she sobbed. Valliammal has been using her neighbour’s restroom facilities because of the house’s condition.
It is reported that there are over 100 million senior citizens – individuals over the age of 60 – in India. A 2014 survey conducted by HelpAge India found that 50% of the elderly surveyed, including 48% men and 52% women, reported suffering abuse.
The Covai Post spoke to R. Vijayaragavan a senior advocate to know about the ‘Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007’.
He stated that the Act was enacted “to provide for more effective provisions for the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens, guaranteed and recognized under the Constitution and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
“The Act states that parents and grandparents who are unable to maintain themselves from their own earning can seek maintenance from their children.
Childless senior citizens can also demand maintenance from a “relative” who is the legal heir of the former and is in possession or will inherit their property after their death” he added.
“Though most states have implemented the Act, the awareness of it is still very low,” Vijayaragavan stated.
In case of transfer of property, he commented “A significant provision in the Act deals with the Transfer of Property, which can be made void under certain circumstances – like if children/relatives refuse to provide elders with basic amenities and physical needs. According to the Act, such a transfer of property “shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence.”
He added that there is a section 24 of the Act which deals with offences related to abandonment. “According to this section, any person who abandons a senior citizen they’re responsible for can be jailed for up to 3 months, and/or be made to pay a fine of up to five thousand rupees.”
“The deconstruction of joint family set up has resulted into these kinds of culturally demoralizing behavioral pattern in the society. This is very harmful for the mental well-being of a family.
We should bring back ethical values instilling them in young children, give pre-retirement training programme to people, and also conduct sessions for working/non-working women in the family. Because they are usually the natural caregivers in a family who have their own stress to deal with” commented Coimbatore-based Psychologist, P. Vijaykumar.