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Old, Harassed and Abused:
Story of the Bangalore Elderly
|by Maitreyee Boruah|
On World Elders Day Wednesday, here are some hard facts about their plight in India's tech hub - over 30 elderly people have been killed violently in the past few years and at least 70 cases of severe harassment and abuse come to light every month.
Records available with Elders Helpline, a service run jointly by the Bangalore police and Nightingales Medical Trust to help senior citizens, show that in the first eight months of this year 560 elderly have become victims of some form of harassment and abuse.
That is an average of 70 harassment cases against the elderly in a month.
"Sometimes, crime against the elderly is of violent nature, which has led to the deaths of many," Kumar, a senior counsellor at the Elders Helpline, told IANS.
"We have handled more than 30 death cases of elderly, after they were severely attacked by the abusers, since the inception of the Elders Helpline in 2002," Kumar added.
"Last year on a monthly average, we registered 65 cases of harassment against elderly in the city. The number is increasing with the passage of time."
Since its inception in 2002, 5,600 cases of harassment and abuse against senior citizens have been filed in Elders Helpline. In fact, Bangalore is the first city in the country to have started special service for the elderly, later emulated by several other cities of the country.
"The cases of harassment and abuse are of various kinds, including physical, emotional and financial," Radha S. Murthy, managing trustee of Nightingales Medical Trust, city-based NGO working for the cause of senior citizens, told IANS.
"It's shameful that a modern city like Bangalore does not treat its elderly population well. We have found that the elders are abused and harassed by those they trust. The abusers are mostly family members, service providers and neighbours," she added.
"I was constantly harassed and sometimes even beaten by my son for financial reasons. After approaching the helpline service and police intervention, almost two months back, my son has stopped abusing me," said Ramkrishna Murthy, a retired government employee.
According to figures available for 2007 with Karnataka's Department of Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens, Bangalore had 565,668 elderly people in a total population of 5.28 million.
"Our estimate says nearly 240,000 elders are abused in some way or the other in the city. Many a time complaints are not even registered by the elders," said a police official.
"Because of their age and lack of physical strength, elders are vulnerable towards violence. Moreover, as a society we have also lost respect for our elders, who were once considered next to god," he added.
As a part of its programme, the Elders Helpline is planning to conduct an awareness drive across the city to control rise in crime against elders.
"Our aim is to prevent the abuse of the elderly by raising awareness through education, through dissemination of information and through prompt action on reported cases," said Kumar.
The Elders Helpline also provides legal advice, counselling, police intervention, assistance for pension, issuing ID cards, tracing missing elders and creating a safer environment for the aged. All services are free of cost.
India is home to over 76.6 million people over the age of 60. By 2025, the projected population of the elderly in India will be 160 million.
Along with age-related health problems, lack of finances is the main issue of concern for around 90 percent of the senior citizens in the country, as per "Old Age Social And Income Security", a project commissioned by the Indian government in 2000 to find out the financial status of the elderly population.
Till date, the helpline has helped solve 2,680 cases. The elderly can reach the Elders Helpline through its toll free number 1090.
(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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