September 8, 2011

INDIA: Maharashtra aims at elderly welfare sans isolation

MUMBAI, Maharashtra / The Hindu BUSINESS LINE / Government & Policy / September 7, 2011

Press Trust of India

Friendly proposals: A view of senior citizens attending a meeting.

The proposed draft policy of the Maharashtra Government for senior citizens has lowered the initial age limit for the elderly from 65 to 60 years while focusing on their welfare without isolating them in old-age homes.

“The policy will be tabled in the Cabinet soon for approval,” Mr Dinesh Waghmare, Secretary, Social Justice and Special Assistance, said while confirming that such a draft policy has been prepared.

Three groups: Mr Waghmare said the draft proposal has categorised senior citizens in three age groups – 60 to 70 years, 70 to 80 years and 80 years and above.

The draft policy envisages a quota for the elderly in CIDCO, MHADA housing projects, concessions in MTDC guest houses, facilities in Government aided libraries free of cost, setting up benches in parks and footpaths for them.

The policy aims to retain the elderly at home, provide them welfare there and discourage setting up of more external institutions such as old-age homes, which isolate and separate them from their families, he said.

Tollfree helpline: The draft proposes city development to be senior citizen-friendly along with setting up of a toll-free helpline in district headquarters and police commissionerates.

He said the sub-divisional officers (SDO) in the revenue divisions of the State have been appointed as the sub-divisional magistrates for heading the tribunal under the Centre's legislation – Maintenance and Welfare of Parents Act – for redressal of grievances.

It is proposed that police along with NGO representatives visit the elderly staying alone in their jurisdiction periodically and prepare a database, Mr Waghmare said.

He said senior citizens and elderly constitute 10 per cent of the total population in the State.

“This will ensure maximum utilisation of welfare schemes for the senior citizens,” he said.

Pension: Referring to the Indira Gandhi National Pension scheme for senior citizens falling under BPL, Mr Waghmare said at present the pension amount is Rs 200 from the Central Government and Rs 400 from the State Government.

According to the proposal, elderly in the age group of 70 to 80 years will get Rs 800 and those above 80 years will get Rs 1,000.

Currently, 11.60 lakh elderly above the age group of 65 under BPL benefit from the pension scheme. With the lowering of age limit, 50,000 more beneficiaries will be added. The expected burden on expenditure will be nearly Rs 400 crore, he added.

The draft policy proposes setting up of ‘Gerontology department' in hospitals where a separate ward for treating old age ailments like Alzheimer would be mandatory.

“Ten per cent of the beds in hospitals should be reserved for the elderly,” officials said, adding that the ailments of the elderly are generally neglected.

The State Government plans to write to the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs requesting it to ask private companies to take up projects for the welfare of elderly under the corporate social responsibility fund.

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