INCREASE in the number of crimes against senior citizens in South Goa has prompted them to seek revival of the special cells formed at various police stations to deal with their safety. The senior (60 plus) citizens, whose number is in excess of 75,000 in the state, are vulnerable to crimes like abuse, purse snatching, housebreak-ins, assaults and cheating. According to official statistics, around 30 per cent of senior citizens in the state live either alone or with spouses only or with other relatives and non-relatives and have been or could be a target of crimes. In the past, quite a few of them have been murdered, while others have been subjected to other forms of crimes and are in urgent need of protection from the society and the government. The director general of police (DGP) must revive the special cells. He should appoint sensitive policepersons for the cells.
A sizeable section of the senior citizens are financially dependent on their children. However, with the families getting nuclear and the pressures of the contemporary work-life imbalance on the nuclear families in which both the younger partners might be working, there is an increasing tendency to avoid taking responsibility of elderly parents. Although it has not become a major problem in Goa, in several states the elderly are driven out of their own homes. They land up in old age homes. Thus rising urbanisation and disintegration of joint families have come as a bane for the elderly. Many of the old people lead isolated lives even while living with their children and other family members.
With old age, they are made to feel ‘irrelevant’ and a ‘worthless’ burden and hence look to the government to help them out. The government’s initiative to help the senior citizens had made them feel safe in the past but its abrupt closure has made them feel insecure once again. The government should not have allowed suspension or closure of the service to the elderly. It is high time that the cells for the elderly are reactivated and elderly-friendly personnel placed in them. At times senior citizens have been victims of insensitivity of policepersons too as in several cases they failed to take action against those involved in crimes against them, making them feel helpless. There is a law to protect senior citizens: the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, passed in 2007, which makes it obligatory for children or relatives to provide maintenance to parents and senior citizens. However, the law is rarely used by the parents as they think it not proper to sue their children over maintenance and support. They do not feel it would right to bring a bad name to the family with a legal fight between parents and children. It is the parents who thus usually suffer again – in silence.
However, the government through its special police cells should encourage parents to gain awareness of this law and other rights guaranteed to them and help them approach a tribunal for seeking support from their parents. The parents who have been illegally evicted from their own homes or who are denied decent accommodation in the family home should be helped to get back the possession of their properties and get proper accommodation. The state government proposes to enact a law to make violation of the rights of the senior citizens an offence. Those who deny them their rights could be made to pay penalties. The state government is contemplating to make a law compelling others to respect and abide by the rights given to senior citizens in the public places. The state government is also contemplating providing financial help to the non-government organisations working for the senior citizens to take care of their psychological issues. There is no dearth of laws to help the elderly but their implementation is indifferent. An example is that of the public transport where the seats reserved for them are generally occupied by able-bodied passengers. The conductors, especially on the private buses, do not care to make the illegal occupants vacate the seats for the elderly. Senior citizens are not given priority in queues outside government offices. The best way to make senior citizens feel safe and reassured is to attend to them first and hear them out and follow it up with action on their requests or complaints against the violators and the negligent. The elderly should not be seen as a burden either by their relations, the government officials or other members of the society. They should be made to feel loved and respected.