The old and helpless

By Julia Fernandes

April 3 2016

 

No mercy should be shown to those who show no mercy to their parents - Julia Fernandes

 

Yesterday I alongwith my sister happened to visit an old age home. Every time I come back from such a visitation it always leaves me disturbed seeing the plight of people who have been abandoned at an age when they need their families the most.

 

It’s not about food, medicines or money. Those are their basic rights; it’s the lack of access to a dignified living. It is about making them feel important and needed. One of them revealed how nobody from their families even comes to visit them. Nothing can be more crushing than to know that you are all alone, old, helpless, sick, dependent on others – and that you’re really not needed or that you have no value. And, all you are waiting is just for death!

 

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 contains penal provisions to discourage abandonment of parents by their children by imprisonment for a term of three months and a fine upto Rs. 5000/- or both on the children. This is not enough, and I don’t even think it is being implemented from what I witnessed yesterday.

 

Just because their old and frail, does not mean they have no power or strength. We, as conscious citizens, need to be their strength. We need to ensure that they are protected and well taken care of.

 

This Act needs more teeth. Following are the recommended amendments to The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 to make it stronger.

 

  • Discouragement is simply not working. Make abandonment of parents and putting them in old age a crime and unlawful act punishable upto five years.
  • Apart from imprisonment, children who abandon their parents and dump them in old homes and go abroad for job prospects, their passports should be taken away. They should be brought back.
  • Companies employing children who abandon their parents, should remove them from employment.
  • The government should provide a monthly stipend of Rs 7,000 for the elderly in India.
  • A national three digit 24x7 toll free number for the elderly should be established where elders can simply dial and report any form of abuse – physical, mental or sexual.

 

I know the above measures seem harsh and strong. But, until man doesn’t evolve to the point of being compassionate and loving to his parents, until love, care and concern for parents does not come naturally, we need to enforce such strict laws. Thousand years ago God was aware that man will not treat his parents in an honourable way and, so, He gave us the fifth commandment – Honour your father and mother! If God felt the need to make a law to protect elderly parents, so should man!