Sometime back I was browsing through a detailed study on the elderly in India. An armory of supporting figures and alarming facts!
Conducted by a team from the Central Statistics Office of the Statistics Ministry, Government of India, there are certain glaring realities that have been outlined.
- There are three sets considered in the population. Age group 0-14 years, 15-59 years and 60 and above years. There is a sharp reduction in the first with respect to the total population over the years. In the other two it is increasing.
- The rate of increase is sharper comparatively in the 60 years and above category.
- The rate of increase is slightly more in rural than urban areas, and women have better life expectancy compared to men.
Coupled with these revelations came certain glaring anomalies:
Women already are handicapped by
- low literacy rate compared to men,
- property ownership is generally in the hands of men,
- those employed in the organized sector are not in the labour force during their prime age
- and most others are in the unorganized sector.
So with an aging population that is increasing every year due to lowering of fertility rates and increase in life expectancy, there are many areas of concern for the 60 years plus crowd. More so for the female population living alone.
Issues of concern are:
- On the socio-economic front, barring government employees in Central and State Governments, monthly remunerations are ridiculously low to eke out any sort of living.
- Over and above that are the health related issues that they are likely to face,
- economic security and emotional neglect despite living with the family
- Hardly any savings for self-maintenance.
This has in recent times led to:
- Aged people still at some job or the other trying to make ends meet on their own while they should actually be leading an easier life after their years of toil. There are cases of being deprived of funds despite having provided it initially.
- A sharp divide in families where the younger lot move out to live their lives without their parents, considering them a burden in most of the cases. The Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) has given way to nuclear families in a big way.
- Parents being whisked away to old age homes since their care cannot be accommodated in the lifestyle that the working couple is accustomed to, briefly remembered only during pregnancy and post delivery care of the infant.
- Total apathy and neglect when living with the couple, making it much worse.
- An increased number of dwellings housing the aged against posh apartments occupied by their children and the divide widening.
Is this the great Indian culture that we blabber about to foreigners but forget to practice the care of our own parents?
Is not the fast paced life in the urban areas especially in IT hubs like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, setting the trend?
Is not corporate culture of parties responsible for this shameful attitude, where one would prefer to party with friends all night long than spend a quiet evening with parents silently pleading through their eyes for some time with them?
And to top it all the couple living separately when the parents need them most for emotional comfort that a family set-up can provide, when they are in the evening of their lives?
Truly shocking but a rude reminder of the times.
What needs to be done: (as I see it)
- Some law to be passed wherein care for one’s parents be made compulsory or their comfort provided for and occasional meeting with them compulsory.
- Incentives through schemes introduced by the government for those who look after their parents well and certified by parents and those around.
- Penalty or harsh strictures for those neglecting including being fined and jailed for a few days.
- Property to be confiscated if repeated.
- Social boycott and ridicule from neighbors for those who are thick-skinned. Legal steps to follow.
Do you call these measures ridiculous? Well, is not the situation itself calling for them? Especially since
The Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), the pride of Indian tradition has been reduced to such a pitiful state.