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Table of Contents
SHORT COMMUNICATION
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 157-161

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007- Helping the conditions of the elderly in India


Department of Community and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India

Date of Submission16-May-2019
Date of Decision22-Jul-2019
Date of Acceptance16-Oct-2019
Date of Web Publication19-Dec-2019

Correspondence Address:
Utsav Raj
Department of Community and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Raipur, Chhattisgarh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/IJCFM.IJCFM_40_19

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  Abstract 

Aging in India is exponentially increasing due to the impressive gains that society has made in terms of increased life expectancy. About 8.6% of the total population in India is in this age group, with 8.2% males and 9% females. With increasing age, an aged person becomes dependent and faces a lot of problems. There is a feeling of neglect and sadness and that the people have an indifferent attitude toward them. Furthermore, the prevalence of mistreatment with the elderly is on the rise. Such a situation has resulted because of degenerating traditional values and weakened family system. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act came into existence in the year 2007 to provide maintenance support to elderly parents and senior citizens. Parents according to the Act mean biological, adoptive, and stepparents, and the age of parents is irrelevant to claim maintenance. Adult children and adult grandchildren are legally obligated to pay maintenance; the amount is determined by the needs of the claimant so that the elderly person can lead a normal life. If children intentionally abandon the senior citizen completely, he/she is liable to pay a fine of Rs. 5000 or face imprisonment for 3 months or both. The legislative approach has its limitation, but it has the potential to arouse the social and ethical debates in the country to alleviate the dependent status of older persons.

Keywords: Aging, elderly, legislative approach, life expectancy, Maintenance Act 2007


How to cite this article:
Raj U, Galhotra A. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007- Helping the conditions of the elderly in India. Indian J Community Fam Med 2019;5:157-61

How to cite this URL:
Raj U, Galhotra A. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007- Helping the conditions of the elderly in India. Indian J Community Fam Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 9];5:157-61. Available from: http://www.ijcfm.org/text.asp?2019/5/2/157/273522


  Problem Statement Top


Aging in India is exponentially increasing due to the impressive gains that society has made in terms of increased life expectancy. With the rise in the elderly population, the demand for holistic care tends to grow. The geriatric population is expected to be 840 million in the developing countries by the year 2025.[1] About 8.6% of the total population in India is in this age group, with 8.2% males and 9% females.[2] It is projected that the proportion of Indians aged 60 years and older will rise to 11.1% in 2025.[3] According to a report by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, “Elderly in India (2016),” in rural areas, 66% of elderly men and 28% of elderly women were working, while in urban areas, only 46% of elderly men and about 11% of elderly women were working.[2] The needs of this group are very heterogeneous, and it comprises one of the most vulnerable populations of society.

With increasing age, an aged person becomes dependent and faces a lot of problems which include physical abuse (infliction of pain or injury), psychological or emotional abuse (infliction of mental anguish and illegal exploitation), verbal abuse, financial abuse, and neglect in getting food and medical care.[2] A study that examined the extent and correlation of elder mistreatment among 400 community-dwelling older adults aged 65 years and above in Chennai found the prevalence of mistreatment to be 14%. Chronic verbal abuse was the most common, followed by financial abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.[4] Those elderly who are staying with their children are prone to abuse. Of the elderly who reported abuse, 45% faced it only because they were economically dependent on the abuser, according to the HelpAge India Survey in 2014. Lena et al.[5] found that among those who are living with children, half of them felt neglected and sad and that people had an indifferent attitude toward the elderly. It was also found that 47% felt unhappy in life and 36.2% felt that they were a burden to the family. According to Srivastava and Mohanty, estimated 18 million elderly in India are living below the poverty line. Such a situation has created a feeling of neglect, dependency, loneliness, powerlessness, and meaninglessness among the poor old persons.[6]


  Need for the Act Top


Such a situation has resulted because of degenerating traditional values and weakened family system. This has led to the breakdown of the joint family system and the emergence of nuclear families. Aged parents have become a matter of burden for them. Intergenerational ties that were once the hallmark of the traditional family system have broken down. The younger generation is considering that the senior citizens are limiting their “independence” and subject them to neglect – almost everyday. Stories of elderly people from well-to-do families, living on the streets after being ill-treated by their children, have become common. In the so-called modern society, the economically inactive old person is treated as a burden on the limited resources of the family. The care of the elderly, therefore, has emerged as an important issue in India.

This article brings out a perspective regarding awareness about the various aspects of the Maintenance Act and law that can improve the lives of the elderly in India. We, as community physicians, are not aware of various sections of the law, then how can we expect an elderly with limited resources to have knowledge about it and stake a claim from their children. As a physician, our role is to provide good health, and health is defined as by the WHO as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” i.e. not just prescribing pills but improving the overall condition of an elderly.


  The Act Top


In 2007, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act came to existence to provide maintenance support to elderly parents and senior citizens. The Act contains 7 chapters and 32 sections. The Act helps cater to their basic needs, adjudication, and disposal of matters in their best interest, establishment, and management of institutions and services and for the rights guaranteed and recognized under the constitution and for matters connected therewith.


  The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2016 Top


This amendment paved the way for all the dependent persons irrespective of age. Any person or parent who is unable to operate his bank account or attend matters relating to his property due to age, disease, or disability shall be included in under this Act, and not only “health care,” but also “shelter, mental and physical health care” shall be provided. Maintenance of parents or grandparents under this section shall be the obligation of those children who are entitled to receive the benefits of inheritance or succession under the statutory law or personal law, and punishment under this Act has been made more strict–rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to 5 years or fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees or both.


  Who Can Claim Maintenance? Top


The Act defines parents as biological, adoptive, and stepparents. The age of parents is irrelevant to claim maintenance. The Act defines grandparents as includes both maternal and paternal grandparents. The Act defines senior citizens as an Indian citizen who is 60 years of age or older. The Act defines children as son, daughter, grandson, and granddaughter but does not include a minor; maintenance includes provisions for food, clothing, residence, medical attendance, and treatment; senior citizens as any person being a citizen of India, who has attained the age of 60 years or above; welfare as provision for food, health care, recreation centers, and other amenities necessary for the senior citizens; and parent as father or mother and stepmother. The only condition for claiming maintenance under this Act is that the concerned elderly must be unable to maintain themselves from their earnings and property.


  Who Is Legally Obligated to Pay Maintenance? Top


Adult children and adult grandchildren, both male and female, are responsible for paying maintenance to parents and grandparents. An application can be filed against any one or more of them. Senior citizens who do not have children or grandchildren can claim maintenance from a relative who either possesses their property or who will inherit their property of the senior citizen after their death. The relative must not be a minor and must have sufficient means to provide maintenance. If more than one relative is entitled to inherit the property, maintenance must be paid by relatives in proportion to their share in the inheritance.


  How Much Maintenance Must Be Paid? Top


The Act mandates that the maximum maintenance paid will be Rs. 10,000/month. The maintenance amount is determined by the needs of the claimant, and the aim is to provide maintenance for the person to lead a normal life.


  Filing Maintenance Proceedings Top


The application for maintenance must be filed before the maintenance tribunal in any district where

  • The parent, grandparent, or senior citizen resides; or
  • The parent, grandparent, or senior citizen has last resided; or
  • The person against whom maintenance is claimed resides.



  Enforcing the Maintenance Order Top


Once an order is passed by the maintenance tribunal, if the other person is ordered to pay a sum, such amount must be deposited within 30 days of the announcement of the tribunal's order. The failure to pay maintenance without sufficient reason will result in a warrant for collecting the due amount. If the person does not pay maintenance even after the warrant is executed, the person is liable to imprisonment for a maximum of 1 month or until the amount is paid, whichever is earlier. The application for the enforcement of maintenance must be filed within 3 months from the date on which it became due. Otherwise, the application will be dismissed.


  Protection of Senior Citizens Top


Any person who is responsible for the protection and care of a senior citizen and intentionally abandons the senior citizen completely is liable to pay a fine of Rs. 5000 or be imprisoned for 3 months or both. In addition, senior citizens can apply to the maintenance tribunal to declare the transfer of property void. The following conditions apply:

  • The transfer of property, irrespective of whether it is a gift or not, the transfer must have taken place after the commencement of the Act
  • The property must be transferred by attaching some conditions that require the person to whom the property is transferred to provide basic amenities and physical needs to the senior citizen
  • The other person must have failed to or refused to provide the amenities and physical needs to the senior citizen
  • Parents can opt to claim maintenance either under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, or under this Act – they cannot opt for both.



  Responsibility of the State Government Top


The state government must ensure that all government hospitals and hospitals partly or fully funded by the government arrange separate queues for senior citizens and provide beds for all senior citizens. In addition, every district hospital must have special facilities for senior citizens. Section 19 of the Act also mandates the establishment of an old-age home in every district and provides for the protection of life and property of the elderly. These old-age homes must be able to accommodate at least 150 poor and needy senior citizens.[7]


  Implementation Top


More than 58 crore rupees have been released by the Government of India supporting the old-age homes in states since 2013–2014. More than 21,000 beneficiaries were covered by about 900 old-age homes in various states who received assistance [Table 1].[8],[9] Except Maharashtra, every state appointed maintenance officer; except Manipur, every state notified maintenance tribunal. It is important that all states and union territories have a notified appellate tribunal.
Table 1: Implementation status of maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens acts, 2007

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  Role of the Legislation in Improving the Conditions of the Elderly Top


The enactment of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 is a legislative milestone. The level of awareness about the human rights of older people in Indian society, particularly among older persons, is very limited. The elderly have a barrier to access to health and welfare schemes because of the stigma attached. Aging is a natural process, and several problems associated with it are attributed as a consequence of aging. They are not very keen to undertake treatment for this. This is in addition to the common health and social conditions such as dementia, depression, incontinence, and widowhood, which the elderly face.[10]

Being economically dependent on children is one of the major reasons for abuse in the elderly. It is also vital to have a bottom-up approach so that people who are the main target or are potential targets are made aware of how to identify, prevent, and protect oneself from such a situation. Awareness of the law will help the elderly to have economical support for themselves. This can lower the dependency on food, housing, and medical care, which can decrease the dependency, thereby promoting the decision-making power of older persons and their ability to protect and enhance their health with dignity. With these provisions in place, the need is to emphasize on implementation. We, the community physicians, can play a very important role in both preventing the abuse as well as empowering the elders to fight back against such violation of their basic human rights.

While treating them, we can try eliciting about the hardship they are facing in their day-to-day activity. We can sensitize them about various provisions of the Act. A public movement can be generated where the elderly can raise their voices against the atrocities happening against them.

This can also help in preventing the fraud where children and relatives take the property in the name of caring and later abandon them. Fear of prosecution by law can prevent any type of abuses against the elderly. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007, makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide sufficient maintenance to senior citizens and proposes to make provisions for state governments to establish old-age homes in every district.

Limitation

Legislations are in place, but the implementation is patchy. There is no awareness of the Act among the elderly. Furthermore, the parents are reluctant to take any legal action against their children. The parents are more emotionally attached to their children than the children being attached to them. In addition, those who wish to fight against this injustice and file a case against them cannot do it due to the physical weakness. The long waiting list for admission in old-age homes speaks that when removed from the home they seek shelter in old-age homes rather than file a case against their children or relatives. Periodic sensitization such as organizing seminars, workshops, and training the officers for the implementation of Act is the need of the hour.


  Conclusion Top


There are no data on poverty among the elderly population. However, with the announcement of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, national old-age pension scheme and National Policy for health care of elderly 2011, the government drew attention to the concerns of this group of people. It raises the priority of poverty reductions among older people and provides for their health-care services. The legislative approach has its limitation, but it has the potential to arouse the social and ethical debates in the country to alleviate the dependent status of older persons. It is just a small beginning toward recognizing the problems of the elderly. A social change takes a long time to show its effect. This has necessitated the provision of the substitutive safety net and a provision of social services for elderly persons.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
World Health Organization. Tufts University. School of Nutrition Science, Policy. Keep Fit For life: Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Older Persons. World Health Organization; 2002.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation Elderly in India; 2016. Available from: http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/ElderlyinIndia_2016.pdf..[Last accessed on 2019 Jan 21].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Desa University. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division: World Population Prospects. Desa University; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Chokkanathan S, Lee AE. Elder-mistreatment in Urban India: A community-based study J Elder Abuse Negl 2005;17:45-61.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Lena A, Ashok K, Padma M, Kamath V, Kamath A. Health and socio problems of the elderly: A cross-sectional study in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka. Indian J Community Med 2009;34:131-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
6.
Srivastava A, Mohanty SK. Poverty among elderly in India Social Indicators Research 2012;109:493-514.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Ministry of Law and Justice, Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act; 2007. Available from: http://socialjustice.nic.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/AnnexureX635996104030434742.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Jan 21].  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Srujana B. Understanding the 'Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. Available from: https://factly.in/understanding-the-maintenance-and-welfare-of- parents-and-senior-citizens-act/. [Last accessed on 2019 Jan 30].  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Implementation of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act; 2007. Available from: http://socialjustice.nic.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/Annexure-XI.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Jun 21].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Patel V, Prince M. Ageing and mental health in a developing country: Who cares? Qualitative studies from Goa, India. Psychol Med 2001;31:29-38.  Back to cited text no. 10
    



 
 
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  In this article
Abstract
Problem Statement
Need for the Act
Who Can Claim Ma...
Who Is Legally O...
How Much Mainten...
Filing Maintenan...
Enforcing the Ma...
Protection of Se...
Responsibility o...
Implementation
Role of the Legi...
Conclusion
The Act
The Maintenance ...
References
Article Tables

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