By  Dr Nirmal Kamal

(Writer is Chairperson (MOS) of J&KState Social Welfare Board)

JK News Today

There are two issues perturbing me so far, one- absence of  welfare services to the senior citizens and persons with disabilities and two-work culture among the service providers in the State. Under such circumstances the role of government and non-government organizations becomes significant as service providers. Both the platforms from where these services can be provided seem to be capable of providing the welfare services to the target groups. But there remains a lot to be accomplished before these platforms become vibrant along with capacity inclusive of will and power to move ahead.

Talking about the first issue on priority, the State of Jammu & Kashmir has taken initiative to care and share grievances of the senior citizens but is yet to finalize guidelines/rules before shaping in the form of Act for providing welfare services to the elders, senior citizens, and the neglected segment of the society. The Central government came up with the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. This Act is being implemented both in letters and spirits in the rest of the country but the State of Jammu & Kashmir is yet to give final consent to the blue print focusing on the J&K Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules 2015. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents And Senior Citizens Act 2007, which was enacted by the Central Government on 29th December 2007, has  provisions for the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens, establishment of old age homes, medical care facilities, protection of life and property as well other offences. This Act of 2007 is applicable to whole of India including citizens of India outside India,  except the State of J&K. Therefore, an urgency for the State to have a separate Act to cater to the needs of the world of elders. The logics behind the urgency of such Acts is common for both J&K State and the rest of the country. Erosion of traditional socio economic environment and value system, fast emergence of nuclear/smaller families, speedy migration, consumerism, growing sense of dignity due to attitudinal changes in young generation etc are the reasons behind the need for such Acts catering to the welfare of the elders by the government. The Government in the Center or in the State has Constitutional   responsibility to address their grievances.

The Union Government took some appreciable steps in the interest of senior citizens like separate windows for reservation at railway stations, reservation of lower berths for the senior citizens, railway tickets at concessional rates, tax concessions, medical facilities etc to them. The Central Government has also provided separate collection windows in the telecommunication collection centers. RBI too, issued notification to the affiliated banks to provide hassle free door step banking service (DBS) to the senior citizens and also the physically challenged customers. My office is trying its best to make senior citizens to be aware of  such services and now intend to approach Banks operating in the State to follow the RBI instructions.

The world of people with disabilities is another concern which direly needs focus by the J&K State. Till now very casual approach is adopted but there is required a focused approach to understand their sensitivities. Just recently, both the houses of parliament passed the Disabilities Bill to secure the rights of disabled and their honor and dignity in consonance with the spirit extended by the United Nations. Hope the State will follow the footprints. “Prasaar Bharti’ has announced some vacancies for the visually impaired and disabled through “Rozgar Samachar” over Radio, Jammu. The gesture is appreciative.

As if the destiny had planned for me, my visit to Arai, a village in district Poonch, on 2nd June,, 2016 proved an eye opener when found that the physically disabled people are not given proper financial, medical and educational help. Like several other villages, this village too, is not properly connected with rest of the town. Occasional meager amount of Rs.400/- as pension, is not  sufficient to meet  needs of the disabled people. Certainly, the State of J&K has about 3.7 lacs disabled people for whom very meager service is rendered.

For the first time, on 3rd December this year, strangely several people with disabilities came out on the streets of Srinagar, to protest against discrimination meted out to them whereas chosen few such organizations observed World Disabilities Day. These celebrations aimed to acknowledge  specially abled people who brought laurels to the country and to boost morale  as well imbibe  competitive spirit in them.  What the normal could not achieve in Rio, Paras from India achieved for the country by winning gold and silver medals. Watching Paralympics at Rio, was quite amazing experience for me as I lack interest in sports. Deepa Malik made me feel proud when she bagged silver medal in disc throw event. Devendra Thajhoria won a gold medal in Javelin throw and Mariyappan Thangarelu and Bhati  won gold medal and bronze respectively in high jump event.  So, Rio was the show of these specially abled stars. They made it to touch the sky.

Back home, while listening “Jeevan Rekha” a Radio feature programme broadcast in the morning, from primary service of Jammu Radio, I became curious to meet a young  100% visually impaired girl Azra Qureshi who was being interviewed. Hailing from a remote village in Rajouri, this girl did post graduation in Sociology, cleared her National Eligibility Test (NET) like any other normal student without using Braille language. High in spirits, she is now preparing for civil exams. Strangely, she was not allowed any writer’s help for competing State Eligibility Test (SET), though she was eligible to avail  that facility and had also paid required fee. Innumerable examples can be found around when such brave hearts have been fighting for their survival competing with those blessed with nature’s competence but are denied their rights by those with negative attitudes.

Three months before, on 1st of October, World Elders Day was observed. On this day the world of elders revealed to the public their inner conflicts with regard to the changed attitudes of younger generation. Both the elders and persons with disabilities appear like helpless babies abandoned by legal parents considering them throwaway material after making their intensive use. Materialistic apathetic aptitudes among the modern generation has widened the behavior gulf with elders waiting with open arms on one shore while other end is unseen. The Government cannot afford to ignore for long.

The time has arrived to intensify social security measures for both the senior citizens and persons with disabilities. This is also the time to shun away inhibitions against the worlds of senior citizens and persons with disabilities. Any further delay in passing of an Act for Maintenance And Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens and similar social security measures for the persons with disabilities will negate all promissory dreams for equitable justice to all the sections of the society which the Constitution of a Welfare State commits. It is pertinent to mention that all these requires attitudinal change and a positive work culture among the service providers. Leaving the traditional system behind, the society is fast ushering into an era with  positive work culture where laws framed ought to be implemented in the best interests of  the society, where mere symbolism will not bring the results. A total change in the outlook of the service providers is the pre-requisite. Here lies the spirit of e-Governance.

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