Recently when I went to a neighbour’s house for intervention and mediation into a family dispute, I got to know that condition of senior citizens is pathetic in our society.
Along with some elders, and the Imam of our Masjid we tried a lot to persuade the newly married son to have better relations his parents, but the son was adamant to live separately.
He wanted money from his parents that he spent, during a construction of house. The old father is penniless as he has no permanent job or pension. Finally it was decided that the entire house be sold, so that old father would give share of the money to his son who is a Govt employee.
While this whole discussion was going on, the eyes of old parents were moist. I had never come across such type of incident earlier and that was the reason I have been against setting up of “Old Age” homes.
This particular incident changed my entire thinking. I have been told that many senior citizens are living a miserable life especially those who are not financially independent.
In such a situation there is an urgent need to have a place where these senior citizens can go and relax for some hours and get involved in some healthy activities.
With an aim of giving legal protection to parents and senior citizens who face harassment at the hands of their children the Government came up with a law called Jammu and Kashmir Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2014 (MAWPAS Act 2014).
The law was enacted by Government of India in year 2007,but it took 7 years for J&K Government to have a similar legislation in our state The rules for this law were framed in 2017.
This law provides effective provision for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens. MAWPAS Act 2014 makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents, by monthly allowance.
This Act provides simple, speedy and inexpensive mechanism for the protection of life and property of the older persons.
Under this legal framework Government through Social Welfare Department is planning to set up several day care centers across state so that parents who face harassment can go and relax at these centers. Infact any senior citizen can avail facility at day care centers.
In Srinagar a day care & recreational center has been set up by Government in collaboration with District Legal Services Authority (DLSA). This is a separate project conceptualized by Hon’ble Chief Justice Geeta Mittal.
The center has been named as Ahata Waqar (center of dignity) and is located in the premises of Primary Health Center (PHC) Chanapora Srinagar.
Chief Justice was supposed to inaugurate this place recently but the programme was cancelled at the last moment. Infact I along with some senior citizens happened to visit this place few days back.
This place can become a hub of activities where senior citizens can get involved in lot of valuable activities. Ahata Waqar has a beautiful library , fully furnished hall fitted with AC and heating system.
There is a kitchen where tea or coffee is provided on nominal charges. There are computers, LCD TV as well. Government has kept several staff members available at this center along with Para-legal volunteers from District Legal Services Authority Srinagar.
Some retainer and penal lawyers are also available to assist senior citizens. Para legal volunteers can help senior citizens to get enlisted for various Government schemes, old age pension , drafting of petitions , applications etc. Above senior citizens can get regular health checkups at Ahata Waqar as specialist doctors and physiotherapists are readily available.
We hope more such centers are set up at district and tehsil level across J&K. Volunteers of RTI Movement are ready to assist senior citizens at Ahata Waqar especially to draft RTI applications and create awareness about this law among them….
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement