Problems of the elderly - part 2: Exclusive social security department need of the hour
By Syed Akbar India boasts of being the largest democracy in the world and yet it does not have anexclusive social security department. The subject of "social security" is shared by various ministries like labour,agriculture and social justice and empowerment, but the Central government has never thought of opening an exclusivedepartment for social security. The existing departments are already overburdened with their regular work andare often left with little time to attend to the social security issue. The Centre has washed off its hands by introducing national oldage pension scheme, whichensures that Rs 400 each is given to the old every month. There has been no revision of the amount despite pricesof essential commodities shooting up by several times over the years. This amount does not reach every deserving old person in the country. Even if the schemereaches some, the money is not paid every month. There have been several instances where oldage pension is paidin arrears after several months, making a mockery of the human rights. Argues N Ashwani Kumar, advocate specialising in Constitutional laws, "the elderly shouldbe treated as a separate class to protect their rights. If need be, Constitution should be amended to provide themwith special rights". He suggests that there should be a separate department in government hospitals for theold on the lines of geriatrics medical wards in developed nations. "There should be an exclusive social securitydepartment where the old can just walk in and lodge their grievances. The SS department should be given enough teeth andenforcing authority to protect the elderly and ensure that their human rights to live are safeguarded," AshwaniKumar said. According to National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, because most of the old inthe country are without income, they need support either from their children or the government. The NIHFWattributes the increase in the elderly population in the country to sharp decline in mortality since 1950 and a steady recent decline in fertility. The need for an exclusive department for social security assumes significance as theNIHFW predicts increase in the population of the elderly including the old without work. "The proportion of elderlypeople not working will increase in the coming decades. About 72 per cent of the elderly population are not expected to beworking in the country."