The old and young in the country are possibly in need of the most attention but are also the most neglected. Being financially dependent, physically vulnerable and in need of constant care, they are considered tedious and burdensome.
Unable to earn money and lack of awareness are the reasons why the elders and children a subject to abuse and little to their knowledge – violation of basic human rights and right to live a dignified life. While the young are being forced into labour, the old are being forced out of their homes.
The growing trend of nuclear families, non-existence of a social security system and inter-generational interaction are the reasons why the human rights of the elderly are violated.
The same is the case for the young as well. Forced begging, sexual exploitation, labour in mines and factories for endless hours deprives them of their basic right to education, right to live a dignified life etc.
To escape such hellish conditions, orphanages, shelter homes and old age homes then become a safe haven and a better alternative for the vulnerable. Unfortunately, these too do not provide the best treatment and security.
Today, old age homes have become quite commercial with not the best management, lacking trained nurses and staff, low-quality food served and poorly maintained rooms. Private old age homes are also making headlines for sexually abusing older women, wrong medication and an overdose of drugs in order to subdue them.
The scenario gets worst in the orphanages where the children are beaten by the warders, sexually molested by staff and become victims of trafficking. For instance, there have been many incidents of newborn babies in West Bengal being sold for Rs. 100,000-200,000. Such activities are likely to take place in shelter homes or orphanages which are not registered under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 and have obtained false licenses through forged documents. As a result, ‘caretakers’ blinded by greed, become the abusers. That was the case in Brahmaputra Orphanage in Telangana. The owner of the orphanage, who was supposed to take care and educate the children, forced them into begging by beating and drugging them.
Due to lack of inspection and regulation by the government many shelter and old age homes running without licenses and are not certified by the state. As per India Today, Tamil Nadu, the state which is known for social welfare programmes has 3000 child care homes, of which half are unregistered. Such laxity in regulation by the authorities is the reason why so many illegal homes have sprouted up which simply earn money by exploiting the children.
The social justice department and the ophange control board, which are responsible for monitoring the shelter homes need to address and manage issues like lack of funds, social security, adequate infrastructure and qualified staff trained to cater special interests of the elders. Currently, most of the old care homes lack permanent staff, which can cater to the specific needs of the inmates. For instance, each inmate has a different diet based on their illness or some may be mentally ill. Unfortunately, there are no institutes in India which run programmes to train staff for such specific needs. Along with establishments of institutes, there is also a need for a push in better incentives to encourage the staff to work permanently, as a majority of the staff in such homes work on a temporary basis.
As per The Hindu, more than 18% of the population estimated to be over 60 years by 2050, there is an urgent need to strengthen the healthcare system in India. The government can also arrange for health checkups by ensuring regular health visits of government hospital doctors.
Lack of inspection by the field officer, documents easily forged to falsely gain license and misconduct by the orphanage owners leaves thousands of children prone to exploitation. With most of the orphanages becoming a hub of illegal trafficking and exploitation there is need to put a shutter on such homes. Child Welfare Committee (CWC) which is the social department responsible for safeguarding the orphanages needs to be given more punitive powers to deal with issues like these. As of now, they perform only a monitoring role and cannot sanction the wrongdoers, which delays the entire process of punishing the accusers.
Further, the current government grants for the orphanages is merely Rs 125 per month for is grossly inadequate. A rise in funds would help these orphanages to ensure better education, employing qualified staff like teachers and improved living conditions. The orphanages can also seek service from a professional counselor to keep a check on their emotional and psychological health along with personality development programmes to improve their soft skills.
While these solutions cannot be implemented overnight, we can prevent them from happening in the first place.
The biggest reason why the older population faces abuse is that they are financially dependent and do not have any source of income. Thus, better financial management policies aimed at the senior citizens, stable pension, health schemes and insurance plans can financially secure the old. Further, the newer policies need to have a focus on productive aging, a western concept, which means the older generation contributing to the society we well. This might include work for money or just satisfaction which is as per the choice of the seniors. It can be volunteering, participating in the management of senior citizen association etc. This will encourage them to engage with the society, form a community and simply enjoy their old age.
Owing to the slow implementation of this act by the state, many are unaware of such acts and reliefs available to them. As per a survey by an NGO Agewell Foundation, 85% of older people have never heard about human rights targeted specifically for them. Thus, social activist urges that creating awareness through sensitising programmes is the first step towards protecting the older population. Not just senior citizens, younger population like students as well need to be made aware of such rights who will uphold their rights in the future.
Not all living in an orphanage do not have parents. Poverty forces them to leave their children in an orphanage as they simply cannot afford to feed one more mouth. Due to lack of family planning, many families in rural areas have lots of kids. So it does not make a difference to them if one or two are sent to orphanages. More schemes like the two-child policies need to be strictly enforced and passed by more states. As of today, only 11 states in India have passed this law. As per the policy, those with more than 2 children will not be entitled to government benefits like jobs, housing etc.
Better regulation of law, stricter inspection by the field officer and increasing the number of public shelter homes can protect both the newer and older generation in our country who need it the most.