Elderly in India are provided many welfare benefits to provide support and improve their well-being. There are legal measures available to protect the rights of elderly. The constitution of India has made several general as well as specific provisions to ensure the well-being of elderly. Article 41 and 46 of the Indian constitution, included in the Directive principles of state policy impose positive obligations of the state to provide welfare measures for elderly. For example, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 mandates the protection of rights of the elderly people.
Despite the existence of such various provisions and schemes for senior citizens, their benefits have reached very few senior citizens. Often the senior citizens are unaware of their entitlements and sometimes they are in too destitute a condition to be able to access the said benefits. In most families, elderly are not only deprived of their properties but also subject to all forms of abuse ripping them off their dignity, leading to significant elderly abuse.
The Laws and the schemes lay down the entitlements of the senior citizens and if the senior citizens have any difficulty in availing their entitlements under the laws and the Schemes, it is felt by NALSA that Legal services Institutions have a significant role to play and they can play a vital role in ensuring access to benefits of the schemes and the legal provisions to senior citizens. Thus, NALSA Act itself casts a duty upon the Legal Services Authorities (State Legal Services Authority and the District Legal Services Authority) to spread legal awareness about the laws and various administrative measures and programmes and to undertake preventive and strategic programmes. Hence, the NALSA (Legal Services to Senior Citizens) Scheme was brought out in the year 2016.
The main objectives of this scheme includes the following
For effective implementation of the NALSA (Legal Services to Senior Citizens) Scheme 2016 in the state of Karnataka, the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority approached NIMHANS, which is an Institute of National Importance with significant contribution for clinical services, training and research in the field of mental health and neurosciences related to ageing. NIMHANS has been collaborating with Karnataka Legal Services Authority and successfully conducting ‘The Free Legal Aid Clinic’ for patients with mental and neurological illness since 2011.
In the meantime, The Department for the Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens, Government of Karnataka had proposed to initiate ‘State Level Resource Centre for Senior Citizens’ at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) to provide information and promote awareness on various schemes and services for senior citizens including ‘The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007’.
The concept proposal for the collaboration between NIMHANS and KSLSA for co-ordinating the effective implementation of NALSA (Legal Services to Senior Citizens) Scheme 2016 in Karnataka was approved by the KSLSA General Body. NIMHANS was hence noted as the Nodal Centre for implementation of NALSA Scheme.
A board of members including Hon’ble Justice Shri. Ashok B Hinchigeri was nominated as the chairman for the advisory board along with other prominent members such as Shri. S. V. Ranganath, Smt. Uma Mahadevan from the Dept. of Women and Child Development and Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens and others and Dr. P. T. Sivakumar as the Nodal Officer.
The programme came to be called as ‘Age Friendly Karnataka’, this is in line with the World Health Organization’ initiative of the ‘Age Friendly Communities’. The vision of the ‘Age Friendly Karnataka’ is to promote well-being of all senior citizens through promoting respect, rights and safety.
The programme has been initiated in Bangalore and Kolar. Kolar was chosen as the polit district as NIMHANS has been collaborating and conducting various projects in Kolar and Kolar is also the ‘Public Health Observatory’ for conducting various public health programmes.
The pilot programme was launched in Kolar on the 20th of August 2017, with a motto of ‘Enabling and Elderly Friendly Kolar’ which was inaugurated by Hon’ble Shri. Justice Jayant Patel, then Executive Chairman of KSLSA at the same venue.
We have conducted several programmes since then, including two Legal Services Camp for Senior Citizens in Kolar and NIMHANS, Bangalore, early this year (29th Jan, 2018). Several Health camps at NIMHANS and in Old Age Homes in Bangalore have been conducted. Seminars on Healthy Ageing including ‘Yoga for Healthy Ageing was conducted on the 22nd of June, 2018. The NIMHANS team has been conducting various awareness programmes for senior citizens in various organizations and the community towards the welfare of Senior Citizens.