Panaji: An increase in the number of cases of abuse and neglect of senior citizens in Goa has forced the state police to start a special helpline for their aid in a state which is often referred to as a beach paradise and India's party capital.
The helpline 1090 was launched by Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Wednesday. According to Inspector General of Police Sunil Garg, it will create a much-needed interface between the police and senior citizens who live on their own.
"The senior citizens can first register themselves with the helpline and then our policemen will physically check on them every fortnight. Senior citizens also need not visit the police station, police will come to visit them if a need arises," Garg told a news agency.
As per 2013 official statistics sourced from the Social Welfare Ministry, over 75,000 senior citizens live in Goa. The state also has 43 registered Old Age homes, which cater to a few thousands of elders.
While the shabby treatment meted out to senior citizens in Old Age homes, especially those run by the state government, has been a matter of controversy, the rate at which property, wealth or domestic strife-related issues are driving the state's young to shun and mistreat their parents is glaring.
Rajan Ghate, a social worker who has been campaigning for a senior citizen helpline, has been working on several cases where parents were abandoned by their wards who are themselves financially well off.
"An ex-military man with an amputated foot had been abandoned by his son in Ponda (a central sub district in Goa) after the latter grabbed his property worth crores (of rupees) ... It took a lot of effort and lobbying with an insensitive police to get the son to be booked for mistreating his father," Ghate told a news agency.
In another case, Ghate has documented that a police official even asked a senior citizen to commit suicide after his son thrashed him over a property-related matter.
A helpline, Ghate said, would help greatly because visiting a police station is not an easy affair for most senior citizens.
"For them going to some place is a nightmare because of their age and lack of confidence. To deal with issues involving parents and their children, while you need a strong deterring law, you also need a counselling component," Ghate said.
And with the 1090 helpline, Garg claims, counselling is on the cards.
"The inspector of the respective police stations will counsel those who neglect and do not treat older people well. If senior citizens were troubled by neighbours or others in the localities, the police will intervene and resolve their difficulties," Garg said.
He also said that the Maintenance of Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act would be invoked in case of harassment of parents by their children.
Another problem which plagues Goa's senior citizenry is loneliness and vulnerability, because in many cases their children prefer to work abroad, especially in Gulf countries, to earn a living.
"It was felt that such parents must get protection against crimes so that they spend their life safely. As per the scheme, the police would identify senior citizens staying alone as well as elderly couples and make arrangements for their protection, including visits by beat police," Garg said.