Associations of Senior Citizens- Their Achievements & Future.
In view of very long life after retirement and very limited avenues to pass time usefully, there is absolute necessity of existence of Associations of Senior Citizens. Provision is clearly made in para 96 of National Policy of Older Persons (NPOP), 99 to establish such Associations at District, State & National levels to mobilize senior citizens, articulate their interests, promote and undertake programmes and activities for their well being and to advise the Government on all matters relating to the Older Persons. Even after 12 years, Government has neither bothered to establish any Association nor cared to recognize any of the existing Associations for any facilities, negotiations or even for sending copies of directives affecting Senior Citizens! Ministry of P.,P.G. & Pensions has recognized various Associations of Pensioners, send them all directives, make All-India level Associations as permanent members & others for 3 years by rotation on SCOVA for holding regular meetings; provided Computers free with direct link to Pensioners` Portal, issued directives to all departments to reply all representations by Pensioners` Associations, give them accommodation, if possible, invite them in Pension Adalats etc. This was brought to the notice of Shri Wasnikji, Minister of S.J.& E. in letter dt 2-8-10 by name but no action is taken inspite of reminders.
Inspite of this, large numbers of Associations have come up at local level, Federations at State level and Confederations at All India level giving opportunities to Senior Citizens to express & share their views, get knowledge about various facilities available, get entertainment, enjoy picnics, celebrate birthdays, health check ups, lectures on various subjects, attend seminars, group support etc. All India Senior Citizens Confederation, Help Age, Dignity Foundation, Harmony Foundation, Silver Innings and many others are doing Yemen service to Senior Citizens and fight for their cause & welfare. These Associations do not have any accommodations, enough funds nor any support or facilities from Government or Local Municipal Authorities. Let us see the achievements of some of the All India Associations. All India Senior Citizens Confederation (AISCCON) is the largest Association in the Country working from 28-12-2001 having largest number of affiliated Associations in 20 States & 3 Union Territories with more than 6 lakh members and holding Annual Conferences regularly in different parts of the Country. It has continuously represented the demands of Senior Citizens with Central & some States Governments; sent large number of resolutions; held National Seminars on important subjects etc. Dignity Foundation is working since 16 years and provided good reading material through monthly magazine and opened 12 Chai Masti Centres for gathering and passing time joyfully in various cities. In addition to Help Lines, large number of useful services on regular basis is provided. Help Age is doing tremendous job of serving poor Senior Citizens in health matter and have started working for other senior citizens also with huge funds coming from corporate bodies and grants. Silver Innings is managed by youngsters for welfare of elders and have done lot by coordinating with major organizations of senior citizens in Mumbai. There are many other Organizations, which have also done lot for senior citizens.
Due to various representations from these organizations and having brought to the notice of various Ministries that not implementing the provisions of NPOP, 99 by Government for 11 long years and thus committing Abuse of Elders of the Country, Government appointed a Review Committee on 28-1-10 to assess the present status of various issues concerning senior citizens in general & implementation of NPOP,99 in particular and to draft a New Policy. This is the Achievement of last year.
Seeing the lukewarm attitude of Government towards their Elders, 27 National & State level Organizations of senior citizens observed a ``Protest Day`` throughout the Country on 16-8-10. This was very effective and Finance Ministry accepted the age of 60 for Income Tax exemption and payment of Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension to BPL senior citizens and giving special concessions to 80 & above senior citizens in this year`s Budget. Unity & Protest have achieved these benefits.
Role of Senior Citizens in Social Change: Senior Citizens are the think tank of the Country. Their potential is not used by Government or society and they are treated as second class citizens! They have done a lot in their prime time and have been partnering not only in achieving Independence but even in present day prosperous world class economy of the Country. They should continue to play important role in bringing social changes most required in present atmosphere of the Country. No doubt, senior citizens like Anna Hazare, APJ Abdulkalam and many others are leading the citizens for required social changes but all senior citizens should participate in social work and their active participation in various activities shall bring the required change in Society. It is now time to give back as much as possible.
1) Civic Facilities for all: They can keep an open eye on various civic facilities like maintenance & cleanliness of roads, supply of water & electricity, transport services, and wherever required, take up suitably with Civic Authorities by correspondence & personal visits. They should get nominated on various committees like Railway Users Committees, Human Rights Commission, Panchayats, Municipal Committees and various such committees dealing with common cause and welfare of all citizens.
2) Community Projects: They should take part in all projects like teaching adults & street children, Family Planning, Polio Drops, HIV Awareness, Non-smoking, Drinking, Respect for women, Special Drives like Census, Elections etc.
3) Law & Order Situation: Volunteering for such jobs at the time of festivals & other special occasions. They can form or be members of Peace Committees of their areas, Social Clubs etc and be helpful in neighborhood areas during situations like floods, earthquakes etc.
4) Maintenance of Facilities: They should help or takeover maintenance of gardens, gymkhanas, sports clubs, help in getting removed encroachments on footpaths, roads, garages & welding works from residential areas.
5) Help to needy Senior Citizens: They should collect full data of all Senior Citizens residing in their area and coordinate with other agencies for help of different kinds to needy, with Police for safety, maid servants etc.
6) Free Counseling: In the field of their expertise, they should give free counseling to Senior Citizens as well as others.
7) Visit to Hospitals, Old men’s Houses: They should regularly visit Hospitals, Old men’ Houses etc and look after requirements of Senior Citizens like giving company, reading for them, giving fruits etc, as possible by self or through others.
8) Social Service: They should join Senior Citizens Associations of their area and do good to Senior Citizens as well as others collectively. Take part in Services of Dignity Foundation & other Social Organizations.
9) Writing their Experiences: All should write their experiences & opinions on various social situations & problems for benefit of the Society in the field of their expertise without pride or prejudice & without fear or favour
Future of Senior Citizens Associations: Due to non-implementation of provisions of NPOP, 99 for providing such Associations at District, State & National level with financial support & negotiating powers and Review Committee having omitted this aspect, the future of Senior Citizens Associations appears to be very bleak. Demanding separate Ministry, Separate Directorate, National Council etc will bring no results unless grass-root level Associations of representatives of senior citizens are strengthened by providing them financial support & negotiating powers. To-day, no letters from any Associations are replied by any departments, resolutions passed and sent by Associations are just kept aside without any action, directives affecting senior citizens are not sent to any Associations, meetings of NCOP are not held regularly!! In these circumstances, what future of SCAs can be expected, though each Association is striving hard to do as much as possible for their Senior Citizens? Media (Para 88 of NPOP, 99) only can get respect and legitimate place in Society for their Elders and improve the position of their Associations by identifying various areas & issues of senior citizens by highlighting them & forcing the Government to give full negotiating rights at Local, State & All India level.