Wednesday, February 26, 2014
bSTANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EMPOWERMENT
(FIFTEENTH LOK SABHA)
MINISTRY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EMPOWERMENT
(DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EMPOWERMENT)
IMPLEMENTATION OF SCHEMES FOR WELFARE OF SENIOR CITIZENS
LOK SABHA SECRETARIAT
February, 2014/Magha, 1935(Saka)
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE
1.Progressive implementation of UN Principles and Directive Principles of State Policy. The Committee note that the International community was sensitized to the needs of the senior citizens in first ever World Assembly on Ageing in Vienna in 1982 which was followed by adoption of five principles for older persons by the United Nations on 16th December, 1991 viz. independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment and dignity as safeguards for the senior citizens. Notably, these laudable principles were enshrined in Article 41 of Constitution of India as Directive Principles of State Policy much before these were adopted by the UN. The Committee, however, recommend the Government to strive persistently to invoke these basic principles with unflinching determination and resolve for the welfare of the older persons. Though India traditionally enjoyed robust joint family system taking full care of elderly persons, however, the Committee note with deep concern that with the fast changing socio- economic conditions, disintegration of joint family system and emergence of nuclear families, the old people are getting increasingly neglected adversely affecting their care and dignity. It is, therefore, important that Government and the community play a proactive role in taking care of the elderly. The Committee ardently hope that with the positive programmatic and policy intervention by the Government for the welfare of senior citizens and the progressive implementation of the laudable goals set for the old people in the UN resolution and in our own Directive Principles of State Policy would enable the senior citizens to lead a life of dignity and self-fulfillment. The Committee also recommend that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in consultation with the Ministries of Commerce and External Affairs, apprise the Committee about the status of ratification of the said UN resolution by India in due course.
2. Formulation of integrated action plan after due consultation with stakeholders. The Committee note that the population of senior citizens as a percentage of total population stood at 7.5% as per the 2001 census. The population is likely to increase to 12.4% in 2026 as per the report of the Technical Group on Population Projections constituted by the National Commission on Population. Further, as per the United Nations Projections on old age population in India, the overall population in India by the year 2050 will grow by 55% but more alarmingly, the population of people in their 60 years and above will increase by 326% and those in the age group of 80+ by 700% which is the fastest growing group. The Committee are, however, dismayed to note that the issue of rapid population ageing in the country has not received due attention of the Government and the community at large. The Committee feel that to meet squarely the daunting task of providing adequate social security, healthcare and other welfare measures to senior citizens, there is an imperative need for integrated plan of action involving various Departments and stakeholders. Since the community has a big role in ensuring the well being of senior citizens, they should be actively involved and their views taken on board while formulating such a plan. The Committee, therefore, recommend the Government to put in place a robust integrated action plan expeditiously with due consultation with all the stakeholders and the elders
and earnestly implement the same with in a definite time frame to fulfil the Nation's commitment to address the serious problems of senior citizens.
3. Formation of inter-ministerial expert group for 80+ group. The Committee are deeply concerned to note that there are no specific programmes/schemes to address the particular needs and challenges of 80+ age group which is projected to increase manifolds (700%) in the next 20-30 years. This age group is most vulnerable and runs the risk of getting dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson disease, depression, etc. in their older years. The Committee, therefore, recommend that an expert group of representatives of all concerned Departments be constituted to devise specialized health care programme for the 80+ group.
4. Early implementation of schemes for welfare of senior citizens during 12th Plan. The Committee were informed that the Ministry have set up an expert committee to formulate a few new schemes under the XIIth Five Year Plan for the welfare of the senior citizens which include the scheme for awareness generation for Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior citizens Act 2007, setting up a helpline for senior citizens at the National and District Levels, setting up a National Commission for senior citizens, and setting up a National Trust for the Aged. The Committee are anguished to note that the above schemes incorporated in the 12th Five Year Plan have not taken off so far, though, almost two precious years of the Plan period have elapsed. The Committee recommend that the Ministry take urgent necessary action so that these schemes are operationalized at the earliest.
5. Harnessing of talent of senior citizens and their rehabilitation. The Committee note that as per the census of India's projected value of expectation of life at birth (2011-15), the life expectancy of males and females is 67.3 years and 69.6 years respectively. The Committee also note that the National Policy for Senior Citizens recognizes productive ageing as the key to the welfare of senior citizens between the age of 60-70 years. The Committee feel that with the increase in the life expectancy and relatively better state of health of people, the Government need to look at continuity of employment upto 65 years/or greater post retirement opportunities for the senior citizens so that the society continue to draw upon their experience and tap their talent. The Committee would like the Ministry to seriously consider the various options which would include reviewing the age of retirement, reemployment opportunities for the retired persons subject to their physical fitness and mental agility and setting up a Directorate of Employment and Rehabilitation for Senior Citizens.
6. Early formulation and implementation of new National Policy on Older Persons. The Committee note that the National Policy on older persons was announced in January 1999. Though the Policy had several features like State support to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons to improve the quality of their lives, the implementation has been rather tardy and there is no coordination mechanism to effectively implement the policy. In view of the new demographic changes and to address the upfront areas viz. citizens of 80+, elderly women, rural poor and unorganized sectors, the Government, notably, set up a Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. (Smt.) V. Mohini Giri to draft a new National Policy on senior citizens, which submitted its report on 30th March, 2011. The Committee are deeply distressed that even after two years of submission of the new draft National Policy on Senior Citizens, the policy was yet to be finalized and implemented. Taking serious note of the tardy implementation of the 1999 policy and the inordinate delay in finalization of the new National policy on senior citizens, the Committee deplore the apathy and neglect on the part of the Government to address the problems of senior citizens. Though, the Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment assured the Committee that efforts were being made to finalise the policy by the end of the financial year 2013-14, yet taking note of the unconscionable delay, the Committee recommend that the Ministry take urgent action so as to ensure that the new National Policy on Senior Citizens is finalized and implemented expeditiously without further loss of time and they be apprised.
7. Periodic meetings of National Council for Senior Citizens and State level councils. The Committee deprecate to note that the new National Council for Senior Citizens constituted on 22.2.2012, under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, has been largely dysfunctional as no meeting of the Council has been held, though required to meet twice in a year. As the National Council for Senior Citizens is an apex body on the policies and programmes for senior citizens, the Committee urge that the Council may be fully functionalized at the earliest alongwith constitution of State Level Councils for senior citizens in all the States and the Committee apprised.
8. Upfront areas for 80+ group in National Policy on Older Persons. The Committee note that the new draft policy sets out upfront areas needing very
special attention i.e. senior citizens in the age group of 80+, elderly women, rural poor and the unorganized sector. The Committee welcome the focus on these sections which are the most vulnerable and are facing increasing neglect and deprivation, poverty and abuse. Undoubtedly, these sections are in dire need of social security and special health care facilities. The Committee, therefore, ardently urge the Ministry to formulate suitable schemes for the dignified care of these vulnerable sections with adequate funding and get them implemented expeditiously.
9. Formation of Department of Disability Affairs and Senior Citizens. The Committee are pleased to note that for the effective implementation of the new policy, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment propose to expand the Department of Disability Affairs and rechristen it as 'Department of Disability Affairs and Senior Citizens'. The Committee while welcoming the laudable move, would like the new Department to be adequately strengthened with professional human resource and material resources so as to meet the lofty objectives of the welfare of our senior citizens, the most neglected section of society, as per good International norms and standards.
10. Utilization of funds allocated for welfare of senior citizens. The Committee note that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is implementing the Central Sector Scheme of Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP) since 1992 with the objective of improving the quality of life of senior citizens by providing basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care, basically through Government/Non-Government Organizations, Panchayati Raj Institutions/local bodies, etc. Important projects supported under the scheme are old age homes, Mobile Medicare Units and respite care homes and continuous care homes. The Committee are anguished at the low physical and financial performance of the scheme under IPOP for the last three years. Surprisingly, against a paltry budget allocation of Rs. 40 cr., only Rs. 20.67 cr. could be utilized during 2010-11, the position was equally discouraging during the previous years. The reasons enumerated for the trend include late receipt of proposals, incomplete documents, late response from the States/UTs in clarification of procedure, etc. The Committee take serious note of underutilization of allocated funds as programmes/projects such as running of old age homes, day care centers and Mobile Medicare Units have grievously suffered. The Committee re-commend that the Ministry look into the reasons for non-utilization of funds, bottlenecks in the implementation and streamline their procedure so that the funds earmarked for the welfare of older persons are well spent and the lapse of fund does not become a recurring theme.
11. Persuasive implementation of IPOP by States. The Committee are concerned to note the large disparity in release of grant-in-aid for old age homes under IPOP scheme in various States. The Secretary, while testifying before the Committee, stated that there were about 296 old age homes in the country and concentrated in a few States. It was pointed out that some States have been quite active while others have not taken the benefit of the scheme. The Committee desire that the Ministry should approach and persuade the States, lagging behind in taking benefit of the scheme, to send complete and viable proposals so that funds can be released to them for running old age homes.
12. Standardisation of norms and guidelines for old age homes. The Committee note that there is a felt need for more old age homes in the country. The Committee feel that the Union Government need to address this issue so that old age homes are available in all districts of the country given the growing requirements. The Committee re-iterate their earlier recommendation contained in the 36th Report on Demands for Grants (2013-14) of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment that liberal central assistance should be provided for the construction of old age homes in each district of the country. The Committee also desire that the plan of old age homes needs to be standardised so that specific norms and guidelines are chalked out for design of the building and the manpower and expertise much needed for running old age homes.
13. Programmes for senior citizens in rural areas. The Committee note with deep concern the rising population of senior citizens residing in rural areas and the problems faced by them. The deposition of the representatives of an NGO that the rural elderly are facing deprivation, discrimination and abuse only reinforces the worry of the Committee. The Committee are distressed to note that no State, Panchayati Raj institution and local body had, reportedly, approached/sent their proposal seeking financial assistance/grant in aid under the scheme of Integrated Programme for Older Persons for running any scheme for the welfare of senior citizens. The Committee desire the Ministry to sensitize the State Governments and local bodies so that programmes for welfare of senior citizens are implemented in rural areas through day care centres and other measures with the help of Panchayati Raj institutions and local bodies. If necessary, the Ministry may consider to release funds for undertaking welfare programmes to these institutions under IPOP. Needless to say, this would go a long way in helping the senior citizens residing in rural areas, thereby giving them access to healthcare, recreation, entertainment and peer interaction.
14. Organization of health camps of MMUs in remote, inaccessible areas. The Committee are dismayed to observe that the number of Mobile Medicare Units (MMUs) assisted under the scheme have gone down from 38 units in year 2011-12 to 29 units in 2012-13. The Committee are of the firm view that MMUs are an important part of the IPOP scheme and, therefore, stress that more MMUs should be assisted, especially in rural and inaccessible areas deprived of medical care as old people, who at times, confined to their homes and bedridden, are unable to travel. MMUs should also regularly organize health camps in remote and distant areas so that more people can avail the benefits.
15. Need for online portal for scrutiny of applications of NGOs.The Committee are concerned to note that the procedure for release of Grant-in-aid under the scheme of IPOP is very long and cumbersome as submitted by the NGOs in their Memoranda to the Committee. Statedly, quite often the proposals are held up at the State level and it becomes difficult for the NGOs to submit the same to the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Taking note of the assurance of the Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, that efforts are being made to design an online portal for receipt of applications and the examination of proposals by an independent agency, the Committee recommend that the online portal be opened and made operational expeditiously and the examination of proposals be made by an independent agency and the Committee apprised. Also the details of the NGOs, the list of beneficiaries, grants given and details of the projects undertaken should be uploaded on the website of the Ministry in order to bring greater transparency and accountability in the working of the scheme.
16. Early revision of cost norms. The Committee have also been informed that the cost norms of the Central Sector Scheme of Integrated Programme for Older People (IPOP) were last revised w.e.f. 01.04.2008. Besides increase in amount of financial assistance for existing projects, several innovative projects were added as being eligible for assistance under the scheme. Since more than five years have passed when the scheme was last revised and keeping in view the inflation rate and the cost of living index, the Committee recommend that the cost norms of the scheme be revised with a sense of urgency. The Ministry should urgently take action in the matter and inform the Committee in this regard.
17. Setting up of RRTCs in each State. The Committee note that the Regional Resource and Training Cenres (RRTCs) is an innovative project introduced in the revised scheme of Integrated Programme for Older Persons (IPOP).The Committee are unhappy to observe that only 4 RRTCs have been supported under the scheme. The Committee, therefore, recommend that at least one RRTC should be designated in each state so as to maintain a data base of institutions working in the field of old age care, the number of old age persons who are destitute and need help, organise training programmes in gerontology and liaison with State Government Departments dealing with welfare of senior citizens whenever required.
18. Extension of geriatric health care and other facilities in all the districts. The Committee note that the National Programme for the Health Care of the
Elderly (NPHCE) is an important programme which aims to provide separate and specialized healthcare to the senior citizens. Due to the decline in the physical ability and increasing susceptibility to diseases, the elderly need dedicated healthcare facilities, especially the age group of 80+. The Committee note that 100 districts in 21 States have so far been covered under the NPHCE programme and geriatric daily clinics have been established in 65 district hospitals and geriatric wards established in 53 district hospitals. Also 8 Regional geriatric centres have been opened in regional centres in major hospitals throughout the country. Further, the National Institute of Ageing (NIA) at AIIMS, New Delhi and Madras Medical College, Chennai is to be established during XII Five Year Plan for which Rs. 1710.13 cr. have been approved during the Plan period. Appreciative of the Government resolve to improve the coverage of NPHCE, the Committee recommend that (i) geriatric healthcare should be extended in all the districts of the country, (ii) given the projection of manifold increase in old age population of the country in the next 20 years, super speciality hospitals be set up exclusively for geriatric care in all the State capitals, (iii) wide publicity be given to the scheme so that the senior citizens become aware of the facilities existing in the various Regional Hospitals and District Hospitals for them and avail the same without hassles, (iv) directions may be issued to and it may be ensured that all Government Hospitals, district centres and healthcare centres have separate queues and seating arrangements for the elderly persons so that they get access to healthcare facilities on priority without discomfiture while waiting for their turn inter se, (v) the population of 80+ should be given priority over others in availing all medical facilities, and (vi) suitable training be imparted to the care givers of the old age population so that they handle the cases with greater sensitivity and professionalism.
19. Need for health insurance for the older persons or universalization of RSBY. The Committee note that Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) have issued instructions on healthcare for senior citizens to Chief Executive Officer of all General Health Insurance Companies, which includes their entry upto 65 years of age. The Committee desire that the Government should work on a health insurance scheme on the lines of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) for the senior citizens or the RSBY universalised.
20. Revision in pension ceiling and criteria for pension. The Committee note that the Ministry of Rural Development is implementing the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) under which Central Assistance is given towards pension @ Rs. 200/- per month to persons above 60 years and Rs. 500/- per month to persons above 80 years belonging to a household below poverty line, which is to be supplemented by the States. The Committee feel that the pension provided under the scheme is too low and desire that senior citizens in the country should at least get an old age pension of Rs. 1000/- pm. The Committee also desire that the criteria of below poverty line for availing old age pension needs to be revised and may be universalized for all non income tax payers.
21. Assistance to persons without permanent address to facilitate grant of pension. Mindful of the deplorable conditions of the destitute and the widows, the Committee urge that priority be accorded to them in the grant of old age pension. The Committee recommend that local Government bodies be persuaded to identify the most needy class of old age pensioners with the help of NGOs and the community so as to help them get access to pension. Due assistance may also be extended to the people without a permanent address/bank account, etc. so that all deserving people get old age pension.
22. Better monitoring needed of NSAP. The Committee note that the Ministry of Rural Development have laid out a procedure for monitoring of the Central Assistance schemes like the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), which provides pension to the senior citizens. The Committee were apprised that the scheme is to be reviewed by the Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (V&MC) constituted at the District level. MPs have representation in these Committees. The Committee recommend that the States hold monitoring meetings at least every three months to vigorously monitor the pension schemes at the District and State levels and give the requisite feed back to the Ministry of Rural Development.
23. Uniform criteria needed for the definition of senior citizens and due concession in airfare. The Committee are pleased to note that the Ministry of Railways provides facilities for senior citizens, such as separate ticket counters for senior citizens at various centres and concessional rail fares for senior citizens. The Committee are, however, surprised that the National Carrier, Air India, under the Ministry of Civil Aviation offers 50% discount on the Highest Economy class Basic fare to senior citizens who have completed 63 years of age on the date of commencement of journey for travel on Domestic Network. The Committee note that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 defines senior citizens as people of 60 years of age. Therefore, the Committee recommend that all schemes for senior citizens should be aimed at the target group of 60+ and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment should issue mandatory instructions in this regard. Moreover, the concession in airfare should be on the minimum fare of that day and not on the full fare ticket as per the prevalent practice.
24. Need for revision of income tax exemption ceiling. The Committee note that the Ministry of Finance also provides certain concessions to the senior citizens in terms of income tax exemption for the senior citizens which is Rs. 2.50 lakh per annum to persons above 60 years and Rs. 5.00 lakh to persons above 80 years. The Committee feel that the exemption should be raised periodically keeping in view the increasing cost of living, including food, housing and the prohibitive cost of healthcare of the senior citizens.
25. Framework for implementation by the States for Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. The Committee note that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 has been enacted to ensure need based maintenance for parents and senior citizens and their welfare. The Act has been brought into force by individual State Governments. The Committee find that about 7 State Governments and one UT are still to frame rules under the Act, appoint maintenance officers, constitute maintenance Tribunals, etc., which mainly include Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. The Committee desire that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment pursue with the State Governments for putting in place expeditiously the prescribed machinery and framework for the implementation of the Act with stringent monitoring mechanism.
26. Protection to the life and property of senior citizens. The Committee understand that under the provisions of the Act, the State Governments are required to prescribe a comprehensive action plan for providing protection to the life and property of senior citizens. However, the Committee were informed that only 6 states – Goa, Tripura, Haryana, Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and 4 UTs namely Chandigarh, Delhi, Puducherry and Daman & Diu have devised an action plan for providing security to the life and property of senior citizens. The Committee note that protection of the life and property is very important aspect of the Act since crimes against senior citizens have become common especially in urban areas. The Committee desire that effective steps should be taken by the States to give protection and a sense of security to the senior citizens residing in both urban and rural areas.
27. Study of best welfare practices. The Committee note from the information furnished by the Ministry that many of the European countries, especially the Scandinavian countries, which have sizeable population of elderly people, provide many facilities for their senior citizens through municipalities and Government agencies, which include home help, healthcare and cooked meals. The Committee feel that the Government of India should endeavour to adopt best practices from these countries and elsewhere for the welfare of senior citizens in our country and a detailed study in this regard should be carried out by the Ageing Division of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
28. Compendium of welfare measures/relaxations/facilities. Having regard to the fact that programmes and schemes for the welfare of the older persons are run by different Ministries/Departments and various concessions, relaxations, facilities and priorities are accorded to them, the Committee recommend that an exhaustive compendium of all such benefits extended by the Union Government be brought out and periodically updated as a ready reference manual for the older persons and the stakeholder.
29. Multipronged strategy to include destitute elders and financial independence and integration of elders. Taking cognizance of the diversity and enormity of the problems confronting the aged, the Committee recommend that the proposed new National Policy on Older Persons must adopt a multipronged strategy to address the problems of the elders with variegated socio-economic conditions and make provision for their independence, social integration, care and dignity. The policy so evolved specifically needs to make provision for the shelter and care of the aged destitute as well as the elders who are desolate, physically infirm but financially independent. The Government may so integrate their welfare programmes that the elders in old age homes/service apartments are able to interact and educate the children in orphanages or schools. Special concession may be given to the destitute widow or widower who enter into matrimonial alliance after sixty years of age.
30. Sensitization of young minds through education. Mindful of the rich cultural heritage of India and the scriptural edicts which proclaim that an assembly must have elders and that one who renders service to the elders, the longevity, knowledge, fame and power of such a person gets enhanced. The Committee, therefore, recommend that the Government of India in the Ministry of Human Resource Development may design appropriate syllabus in order to enlighten the awareness of children about great Indian cultural heritage and the esteem in which the elders have been held from time immemorial and the far reaching benefits that accrue from the care and service of the elders.
31. Standing machinery for effective inter-ministerial coordination and enactment of a new law. The Committee note that the various Ministries of the Government of India run schemes for the welfare of senior citizens, i.e. the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Finance, etc. The Committee desire that the Government should strengthen the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for better liaisoning and coordination between the various Ministries implementing the schemes for the welfare of senior citizens, both at the Central and State level. In order to ensure that the elders get proper access to food, shelter and the much needed healthcare in the twilight of their life and that they lead a dignified existence, which is part of the fundamental right to life, the Committee recommend that a permanent standing machinery be created under the Chairmanship of the Secretary (Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) for better conception, coordination and effective implementation of various interdependent programmes for the welfare of elderly people. Given the enormity of the emerging challenges in the next 20 years and the vulnerability of this age group, the Committee recommend that a comprehensive law for the social security and protection of the dignity of senior citizens of the country be enacted at the earliest. The Committee are quite sanguine that if their recommendations are given due consideration and implemented earnestly, the vision of 'grow old' and the 'best of life is yet to be', would get fructified.
NEW DELHI Chairman,
17 December, 2013 Standing Committee on 26 Agrahayana, 1935 (Saka) Social Justice and
Author prabhakar chhatrr