April 11, 2011

INDIA: Survey of the old reveals human rights violations

NEW DELHI / The Hindu / News / April 11, 2011

Staff Reporter

60 % living alone or in nuclear families

85.9 % unaware of their human rights

Every sixth old person living in urban areas in the country does not get proper food, every third old person does not get proper medicine or health care in old age and every second old person does not receive due respect or good treatment from family member or society.

These are among the findings of a study on “Human rights of older persons in India” carried out by non-government organisation Agewell Foundation in the month of March this year. The survey studied a representative sample of 50,000 old persons (29,000 from rural areas and 21,000 from urban areas) across 300 districts of 25 States and Union Territories of India. The study “attempted to identify responsible factors for violation of human rights of old persons”.

Almost 60 per cent of old persons interviewed during the survey were living alone or in nuclear or small families. Of the 50,000 respondents, 22,250 said they would like to live in a joint family, but their circumstances do not allow them to do so. Only 8,022 said they were happy living alone.

A high number of people interviewed (85.9 per cent) were unaware of their human rights. The study found this closely linked to literacy levels among old people. In urban areas, almost every third old person was found to be illiterate, while in rural areas almost two-third old people were found to be illiterate.

Over 23.3 per cent respondents were found to face human rights violations in old age. The study found 2,302 old men and 3,942 old women in rural areas living in “inhuman conditions”. In urban areas, most old people cited “non-availability of family support system or less interaction with family members” as the main causes for their human rights violations. In general, urban areas were found to have higher instances of human rights violations of the elderly in comparison to rural areas.

Fear of marginalisation by family, lack of respect in old age and interaction with family members or relatives, lack of job opportunities, safety and security emerged as the most common concerns of old people throughout the country.

The study suggested putting an end to age-based policies like retirement policies through amendment of reservation policies. It also suggested increasing awareness about preparedness for old age.

Copyright © 2011, The Hindu.