A COMMISSION FOR SENIOR CITIZENS, PLEASE!

FOR THE CAUSE OF LIVING IN DIGNITY: Several of Panaji and Goa’s seniors came together in a day long dharna to highlight the miseries of being treated as a burden instead of seniors who have a right to live with dignity in their own homes or accommodation provided for them. The dharna was organized by Rajan Ghate, convenor of the Senior &Junior Citizens Forum.

By Pankajbala R Patel

IN the older cultures age was actually accepted as normal and celebrated naturally! However, with urbanisation and mod con-driven lifestyles we see increasingly all around us how seniors are being marginalized in home after home. A younger generation is taking over the reins of control of just about everything and it makes for grim situations, which many of our seniors are even reluctant to admit and talk about.
Adult children who may or may not live with their senior parents insist on taking charge of their parents’ bank accounts, and many are the arguments about who should inherit what. Very often we see married or unmarried sons and daughters throwing their weight around in influencing and oftentimes bullying their parents about how their money, property and possessions should be distributed to other siblings in the family equitably or most inequitably.
We are taught that age is just a number in the mind but then again we do grow old and find ourselves in situations in which we need to sustain ourselves in dignity. So shared most of the seniors who joined the redoubtable convenor of Senior & Junior Citizens Forum, Rajan Savlo Ghate, on a day-long dharna organized at Azad Maidan in capital city Panaji September 30, 2021.
The dharna was to focus on how the Maintenance & Welfare & Senior Citizens Act 2007 is being implemented arbitrarily or partially, says Rajan Ghate, “At the moment it is being implanted biasedly or at the whims and fancies of the ruling party and this has always been so!” No authority is seriously interested in the plight of senior citizens seeking some help to live in dignity in Goa. Children are duty bound by law to treat their parents with love and affection but oftentimes it is a reverse situation of grown up children married or unmarried choosing to continue to live in their parental home and bit by bit giving orders to their parents on how they should conduct the rest of their life in their own home.
There are ironies galore and sooner or later we see how parents give up both the fight to be independent or take to being semi-invalids for their own comfort and peace of mind…taking the least line of resistance, and even agreeing to be put away in assisted living homes near or far as their sons, working daughters and daughter-in-laws and their growing children no longer have the time of the day to look out or watch out for them with any genuine feelings. Life can become quite hellish for seniors depending on children who themselves are turning into seniors but without half the grace of their own parents who at least had made the initial sacrifices of hard work, giving up their own needs and wants just to put their children through good schools and seeing them settled with homes of their own…
It is usually when there is a widow or single woman daughter or an unmarried son or some aging mausi or mami in the family, and grandparents who linger on in ill health – which are the cause of many a domestic fight. There is also the matter of making wills and settling inheritance rights. Situations, economic and social, do change perceptions of what is the right thing to do.
We all are familiar with a slew of narratives tragic and heart-breaking. When the parents of a dear friend of ours realized that their daughter was not going to get married, they wanted to will their flat to her – but their eldest son and wife objected, said a few nasty things before leaving the house bag and baggage. Soon after when their son passed away in the prime of his life it was pain all around with the spinster sister crying the most for she had loved her brother despite her parents’ decision.
There are stories galore and most of the seniors who sat on the dharna at Azad maidan could well recount them. Many of them live lonely, single lives at life’s end and seek some shelter or financial aid or even a job to keep them going – but the State despite the welfare laws have done little to cheer up their lives. There is no one to take a personal face-to-face interest in them, who cares? Who cares!

Commission for Citizens in Goa
In this respect RTI activist awardee Rajan Ghate, also Convenor of the Senior & Junior Citizen Forum, is appealing for “addressing, administering, handling and resolving the grievances and issues related to this class of the citizens, on timely basis, so that matters do not reach a critical stage of severity.” The seniors who had gathered at the dharna support him in asking the government of Goa to set up a Commission for Citizens in Goa to enable the day-to-day handling of issues concerning senior citizens as also junior class of people who face harassment, assaults, non-provision of maintenance to them from well to do children or the State which does have welfare schemes for seniors but which do not seem to be working impartially “to ensure the effective implementation of the Maintenance & Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.”
According to Rajan Ghate on December 9, 2017 the late Manohar Parrikar, then chief minister of Goa, had announced that he would be setting up a Commission for Senior Citizens, at the Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana event organized at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao, in the presence of Union Minister Thavarchand Ghelt and then Social Welfare Minister Pandurang Madkaikar and other dignitaries.
A lot of time grief has passed under the bridge of time and along with trade union leader Christopher Fonseca (one of the speakers at the dharna) he urges the government of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to take a closer look at what is happening to seniors in Goa and urgently help distressed senior citizens, so that they may lead a normal, peaceful life during their “age of vulnerabilities.”
Interestingly, many able seniors are just looking for a job to keep themselves busy and involved with the business of living with dignity! Yet, neither civic society nor the State thinks along the lines of offering opportunities to senior citizens to continue earning a living honourably – doing jobs they are perfectly capable of doing, probably more competently and honestly than many a younger employee anxious to pack up and go home.

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