The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens’ Bill 2006 that is likely to be tabled within the next 10 days is just a lot of noise. By no reckoning will this one Bill be able to better the lives of the elderly. If intent is missing, no law, rule, regulation can bring any change in the way children mistreat their elderly parents. The not so well off will abandon the past (parents) in favour of the present (themselves) and the future (children). The well off will continue to mirror their poorer brethren and perhaps go a step further, try and squeeze properties and other financial and non-financial assets out of their parents before laying out the path to their graves; many, as we all know, have already turned the lives of their parents, who are no longer seen as economic agents, into living hell that only the Final Journey can soothe.
With about 76 million Indians above the age of 60 today and expected to rise to 112 million by 2016, largely due to rising life expectations and better healthcare, the figure though small in percentage terms when compared with other countries, is large in absolute terms. To put it in perspective, the number of Indian elderly a decade from now will be more than the entire population of Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, Egypt or Turkey; it will be six times more than Australia and two-fifths of US. The scale of the problem, no doubt, is humungous and India is fortunate to have a demographic advantage today — a third of India’s population was below 15 years in 2000 — an advantage that will ensure that just 12 per cent of India will be over 60 years in 2025 and not a third as in Germany, a fourth as in the US or a fifth as in China.
Opinion in The Indian Express, December 01, 2006