A demographic revolution is taking place throughout the world indicating a phenomenal rise in the population of the elderly. According to a UN estimate, the population of the people aged 60 years and above is expected to grow to 1.2 billion by 2025 and to 2 billion by 2050. Today, about two thirds of all the older people are living in the developing world. As per the Census 2001, in India, there were 77 million persons above 60 years constituting 7.5% of the total population of the country. This number is projected to go up to 12.4% of the population in 2026. Such an increase obviously will throw up numerous challenges in designing old age specific programmes and schemes and addressing their issues in a comprehensive manner.
The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment announced a National Policy for Older Persons in January, 1999. This policy reaffirmed the commitment of the Government to ensure the well-being of the older persons in a holistic manner. The National Policy for Older Persons essentially envisages support from the State to the older persons to ensure their financial and food security, health care, the need for shelter as well as other needs of the older persons, providing them an equitable share in development, giving them protection against abuse and exploitation, and ensuring the availability of services to improve the quality of lives of the older persons.
Thirteen years have elapsed since this policy was announced. Keeping in view the changing demographic pattern, the socio-economic conditions and the technological development in the country, the Government is in the process of bringing out a new National Policy. The draft of the new policy is ready. The new Policy is expected to cover a wider spectrum of the issues and challenges facing the elderly.
An institutional mechanism has been put in place to monitor the implementation of the existing national Policy for older persons and to advise the Government regarding the formulation and implementation of the policy and programmes for the aged through a National Council for Older Persons, under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment. The Council was first constituted in the year 1999 for a period of five years. It was reconstituted for another period of five years in the year 2005. However, the composition of this Council was not comprehensive enough as it did not contain sufficient non-official members to maintain regional balance. Besides, it also did not include the representatives of some of the Ministries/Departments dealing with issues related to the senior citizens. With a view to address these issues, the Council has been re-constituted and has now been renamed as the National Council of Senior Citizens. A Resolution to this effect has been issued in the Gazette of India (Extraordinary) on 22nd February 2011.
The Parliament enacted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act in December 2007, a landmark development. This Act has made the maintenance of parents and senior citizens by children, and where there are no children, then by the relatives, obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals. The Act has to be brought into force by the individual State Governments. It is not applicable to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, while Himachal Pradesh has its own Act, with the concerted efforts made by the Ministry, all the States and UTs have been persuaded to bring the Act into force in the respective States.
For the effective implementation of the various provision of the Act, the States and UTs are required to take further steps, such as framing Rules, appointing Maintenance Officers, and constituting the Maintenance and Appellate Tribunals. As per information available in the Ministry, 14 States and 5 UTs have taken all these necessary steps.
The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is also implementing the “Integrated Programme of Older Persons" since 1992 with a view to improve the quality of life of older persons by providing basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care, entertainment opportunities, etc. Under this Scheme, financial assistance up to 90% is provided to Governments/Non-Governmental Organizations/ Panchayati Raj Institutions/ local bodies etc. for running and maintaining old age homes, day care centres, mobile medicare units, day care centres for Alzheimer's disease/Dementia patients, physiotherapy clinics for older persons, sensitization programmes for children, particularly in schools and colleges, Regional Resource and Training Centres, etc. About 350 NGOs are being supported every year for running and maintaining around 550 projects.
In order to address the increasing demand for care givers, the National Institute of Social Defense (NISD), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, has been conducting One-Year, Six-Month and One-Month Courses on Geriatric Care. Besides, the Institute also collaborates with reputed institutions for organising short term training programmes for the caregivers.
To ensure effective implementation of the policies and programmes of the Ministry and also to augment the activities of the NISD, the Ministry presently supports 3 Regional Resource Centres (RRTCs) namely, (i) Anugraha, New Delhi, which caters to the requirements of the northern States, (ii) Nightingale Medical Trust, Bangalore, which caters to the requirements of the southern States, and (iii) Integrated Rural Development and Educational Organization (IRDEO) which caters to the requirement of the north eastern States. These RRTCs undertake (i) Training of functionaries of grantee organizations under IPOP and monitor their work; (ii) Advocacy and awareness generation; (iii) Liasion with the concerned State Governments in the field of old age care, with specific reference to the implementation of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Act, 2007, and the National Policy for Older Persons, 1999 and the other programmes and interventions for the senior citizens; (iv) Maintain a data-base of the institutions working in the field of old age care; and (v) Research and such other functions as the Ministry may assign from time to time.
The need of the hour is to create a caring society, especially for the ageing population with the help of representatives from the Central Ministries and Departments, the State Governments, experts, academicians and many other stakeholders. (PIB Features.)