December 16, 2017
“A recent incident really shook us. We gave shelter to a grandfather who was ailing and in his last stage. His sons called us for help, as they were struggling with finances. We gladly took the responsibility but could only extend care for two weeks, after which he passed away. We handed over his body to his two sons for last rites. They gave us the death certificate for record sake. But, little did we know that it wasn’t the end. Few weeks after, his wife came about with the third son, who we were completely unaware of, and accused us of interference. It took us sometime to convince them that we were only care givers and have nothing to do with the man or the two sons,” says N. Ganesh. Founder member of Helping Hearts.
A group of college friends registered ‘Helping Hearts India’ as a social service organisation back in May 2009. Since then this self-funded group where all its members make a contribution on a monthly basis, have been looking after the elderly who have nowhere to go. With more than 300 contributors and 60 odd senior citizens roughly, they are not complaining about funds or volunteers. But they are trying to look for ways to carry out their good work without interruption. And the only problem that is bothering them is the lack of legal framework to protect the do-gooders. N. Ganesh explains, “It often happens that we pick up people who need shelter and have no idea about their background. Some reveal their family members, some don’t. Most of them are abandoned or lonely and without any support. But there have been instances where relatives or some family member have cropped up after the death of the individual. So we are really struggling with the legal authority of our shelter inmates.”
But nevertheless, he has found a strategy. “I think from now on, we will have to report to police station with each inmate, so that they make a note of it. That seems the only possible solution, though don’t know if that would help because there is no legal framework in place.” Agreeing to the difficulties, Puneet Bharadwaj, High Court Lawyer talks about ways to handle this. Public notices are a good way of giving out information. And also, in cases where the elderly is able to discuss his family members, the NGO can file a case in the court asking for maintenance, that not only saves them from baseless accusations it also exercises some rights through appropriate means.