Six-month jail term for abandoning and abusing parents

A law to protect the senior citizens

Society

May 14, 2018

/ By / Kolkata



Elderly women participate in a walk organized to mark the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Bangalore, India, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. With the life expectancy of people increasing, households in places like India that have large numbers of joint and extended families are under stress, thereby increasing the incidents of abuse of the elderly by the family members. (AP Photos/Aijaz Rahi)

Number of elderly abuse cases are rising in India

The government plans to increase jail term from three to six months for abusing or abandoning parents. The government also plans to widen the definition of children under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

The Narendra Modi led BJP government is planning to increase the jail term for those who abandon or abuse their elderly parents to six months, according to a senior official. Earlier the punishment granted was of three months. The ministry has drafted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Draft Bill, 2018, which will supersede the existing Act. the legislation was enacted in 2007 to provide more effective provision for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which is reviewing the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, has also proposed to widen the definition of children to include adopted children or step-children, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, grandchildren and minors represented by their legal guardians, said a Ministry official. At present, only biological children and grandchildren come under the Act.

The draft Act also proposes doing away with the upper limit of INR 10,000 a month in maintenance, thus making it variable. “Those who earn well can and should shell out higher amounts for the upkeep of their parents. Also the definition of the term ‘maintenance’ should go beyond providing food, clothing, housing and healthcare and include safety and security of parents,” said the official. Elderly parents can approach a maintenance tribunal if their children neglect or refuse to take care of them.  The Bill also introduces a disciplinary measure of up to one month imprisonment in case the monthly allowance remains unpaid.

Will the new policy be effective?

Policies have been there for a long time but how effective have they been? The biggest problem that results in the ineffectiveness of these policies is unawareness. In rural areas people do not know if any such law exists and even if they do they do not have the courage to file a complaint against their own children. In urban areas  the enforcement of law abruptly ends when a complaint is filed. As soon as the elderly file the complaint, the children enter into an agreement and either the petition is withdrawn or Further Action Dropped (FAD) on such petitions, after the children agree to part with a meagre sum for the livelihood of the parents.

If one goes by statistics, Indian society is no longer parent-oriented. The younger generation is more comfortable with nuclear families and not joint families. After a certain age, kids either want to move out of their parents’ house or make their parents move out of their house. Problems start arising when parents are left helpless without any money. According to a latest study by Agewell Foundation, 65 pc of old people are poor with no source of known income. But the good news is that 35 pc still have money, properties, savings, investments, inheritance and above all supportive children. But if you look at the future, India has a population of 100 million old people and the number will touch to 324 million by 2050.

The study reveals that due to lack of awareness about their rights in old age, many people are compelled to live in inhuman conditions. With significant increase in the elderly population, it has been noticed by volunteers that elder abuse has become rampant and that a majority of older people have resigned to their circumstances for sake of well-being of their loved ones and their own peace of mind. With the government coming up with the new draft bill it is just a matter of time to see how the situation changes for the elderly.

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