The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Right to home for parents
- Bill lists care rules for sons & daughters

New Delhi, Sept. 8: Aged parents without the means to maintain themselves will be guaranteed the right to live in the homes of their sons and daughters if the government accepts the suggestions of an MPs’ panel.

The right would apply even if the son or daughter has built the house from his or her personal earnings, says the parliamentary standing committee on the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007.

The bill puts the same obligation on stepchildren and adopted children, and even on a relative if he is in possession of the senior citizen’s property — for instance, through inheritance.

The children must also pay the parents “maintenance” in the form of an allowance, and ensure their “welfare”, which refers to “provision of food, health care, recreation centres”, according to the committee.

The original bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha in March, was sent to the House panel because the “welfare” in its title was not defined. The committee has now defined it in its report, placed in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

The bill and the recommendations are good news for abandoned and tortured parents like Padma Saha, who was thrown out of home by her son in Memari, Burdwan, in 2005. Since then she has been fighting a case in the Burdwan chief judicial magistrate’s court.

The House panel wants quick trials in such cases, which it says should be tried not just by magistrates but even by subdivisional magistrates. Action will be expected within 90 days of a parent applying for maintenance.

The bill proposes that anyone intentionally abandoning their parents — or a senior citizen they are supposed to care for — would face three months’ jail or a fine of Rs 5,000.

The committee, headed by BJP Lok Sabha member Sumitra Mahajan, has also asked the Centre to introduce group health insurance (GHI) for senior citizens.

Sources said the government was likely to accept it. It is not clear, though, whether the children are obliged to pay the premium.

The panel also wants a statutory obligation on state governments to pay the elderly a “uniform and adequate” old-age pension.

The bill asks for more effective measures to protect the life and property of senior citizens, “keeping in view the current scenario of law and order and eroding sense of morality”.

The number of the aged in the country has risen from two crore in 1951 to 7.6 crore in 2001. By 2030, India will have to take care of 20 crore elderly people.

“We did not need to study models from other countries; all we needed to do was speak to the NGOs,” said a Lok Sabha member who was on the committee.

Over their nearly 20 sittings, committee members are said to have shared personal experiences, too.

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