THE SILENT MARCH – Our Concern for Suffering Fellow Senior Citizens
By Harchandan Singh, Secretary General CCCGPA & RSCWS
It is rare that the people jointly raise a voice for a cause that does not directly affect to them. It is even more rare that the “Haves” jointly but selflessly raise their voice for the “Have Nots”. It is rather rare of the rarest to see the sexagenarians, septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians all march together in hundreds - on issues of National importance.
It was exactly all like that what happened on that historic day of 16th August, 2010 – when over 500 Senior Citizens belonging to nearly 30 different organisations of the tri-city of Chandigarh, Panchkula & Mohali marched together through the main city centre in Sector 17 – carrying Banners and chest patches bearing slogans in support of their demands with a message to the Nation and younger generation to “RESPECT AGE” & “CARE FOR THE ELDERS”.
The march was a part of the Senior Citizens National Protest Day. It was followed by a delegation meeting the UT Administrator & Governor Punjab Shri Shiv Raj Patil and presenting to him as well to the Deputy Commissioner Chandigarh - a Memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister of India – on the major issues relating to the Senior Citizens.
who all participated
The Silent March was led by some seniors in their 80s & 90s on the wheel chairs & crutches followed by the Banner bearing members of Chandigarh Senior Citizens Association (CSCA) and Members of various Chapters of CSCA, Coordination Committees of Central Government Pensioners Associations (CCCGPA), P & T Pensioners Welfare Association, Railway Senior Citizens Welfare Society (RSCWS), Association of Retired Officers of Indian Audit & Account Deptt., Central Government Pensioners Association, Association of Retired Officers of Labour Bureau, ESIC Retired Officers Association, SBI Pensioners Association, Federation of Senior Citizens (FEDSEN) – North and some other groups of Human Right Association and Women & Youth Organisations.
WHAT WERE THE MAIN ISSUES
For several decades, Governments at the Centre and in the states have been neglecting the problems of senior citizens. Out of 10 crores of older persons, 66% go hungry every day; 90% have no social or health security; 37% are lonely and neglected.
National Policy on Older Persons – announced in 1999 – has not been fully implemented by a single state. The Policy visualizes that the state will extend support for financial security, healthcare, shelter, welfare and other needs of older persons, provide protection against abuse and exploitation. The policy aims at well - being of older persons, so that they will not live unprotected, ignored or marginalized. Its objective is to help older persons to live their last phase of their life with purpose, dignity and peace. But it has yet to be implemented anywhere.
Only 3 states out of 35 have effectively implemented the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act – though three years have passed. Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme had been implemented by only a few States. There is no comprehensive medical or health care for old people after 60 years of age.
Health Insurance for all Senior Citizens with modest premium and without restrictions of “entry and exit age” and “pre-existing health conditions”, early implementation of the “Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Act” in all States and Union Territories, implementation the existing NPOP (National Policy for Older Persons) with adequate budgetary support, Uniform age of 60 years for Exemption under Income Tax Act and Old Age Pension for all Senior Citizens and Additional Pension to Pensioners / Family Pensioners who are 65 years & above for meeting health related requirements – as done in case of those of 80 years and above.