“A few decades to my sum of many years,/ I am continue to stuck in the in-between./ A relic in this vale of tears,/ A reluctant ‘was’, ‘has-been’.” — Chris Z. Abbas
THESE verses had been penned by a pricey close friend describing aged age, three yrs just before her dying in 2009. Chris was 88 when she departed from what she identified as “this vale of tears”.
The truth is that professional medical science features of its good results in prolonging the age of male — life expectancy in Pakistan has grown from 45 decades in 1950 to 67 nowadays. But culture and state have performed treasured little to make improvements to the top quality of existence for their senior citizens.
As a result it gave me wonderful pleasure when I figured out a short while ago that in 2014 the Sindh Assembly experienced adopted the Senior Citizens Welfare Act (SCWA) — the initial province in Pakistan to do so. Lawyers dub it as a ‘model’ legislation, slash and pasted from the social welfare legislation of a West European condition but devoid of any plan for its implementation.
The story thereafter is the regular a single complete of disappointment commonly expert in Pakistan’s legislative history. It took two extra several years for the regulation to come into drive. The Senior Citizens Council which on your own could make the law powerful was constituted in 2017.
The chairman of the council died before long immediately after his appointment and no substitute was nominated to exchange him. The council for social welfare was not allocated any cash and remained non-purposeful for practically 3 several years. The Azadi Card scheme so crucial for offering senior citizens obtain to their entitlements has even now to consider off, notwithstanding the massive number of candidates. Abandoned by its patron, the PPP federal government, the SCWA was on the verge of lapsing into oblivion when the Legal Aid Society made a decision to pursue it in December 2019. It filed a petition in the Sindh Substantial Courtroom inquiring for the implementation of this progressive piece of laws.
Senior citizens have however to receive the added benefits the law promises.
The SCWA focuses mostly on the financial dimension of healthcare, transport fares and obtain of merchandise. It also can make it incumbent on the government to set up a fund to fulfill the needs of senior citizens and establish previous-age homes for individuals of them who are indigent. These are crucial requires of the aged nevertheless their priorities may possibly differ based on their socioeconomic status.
As the ‘seniority’ of a particular person raises it is healthcare that consumes the biggest chunk of the household spending budget for all lessons. For the marginalised, concessions in bus fare, a house and a pension would naturally be welcome, supplied the constraints they experience in building discounts in their working lifestyle. The greater off would naturally respect the tax cuts and discounted on air vacation fare proposed.
The Act helps make it necessary for community- and private-sector hospitals to provide concessions — some as significant as 50 for every cent — on companies to these who are 60-plus a long time. This would be of gain to all.
The Legal Assist Society is to be recommended for using up this bold initiative. By creating community consciousness about this Act and badgering the authorities, it has managed to kick-get started the procedure of implementation. The govt has been pressured to get its act collectively as the Legal Aid Society has correctly targeted on the health wants of senior citizens in the age of Covid-19. As is effectively acknowledged, the elderly are a lot more prone to this an infection.
As a outcome, the government informed the courtroom at the final hearing that a provisional vice chairperson has been appointed to show up at to the Council’s administrative duties and a sum of Rs30 million was allocated for its performing.
But we nevertheless have a very long way to go prior to senior citizens in Sindh can hope to acquire the advantages that the legislation promises them. The indifference and lethargy of the powers that be are not the only obstruction in the way of implementation. Resistance from the affluent personal healthcare sector to any concessions is another significant component jeopardising the welfare of senior citizens. The Legal Assist Society has thus filed a petition from six private hospitals of Karachi for allegedly resisting the duties imposed on them by the SCWA.
The ploy adopted by private hospitals of shifting the blame onto the federal government and accusing it of not carrying out its features will not support their trigger. The government’s failure in the matter does not absolve the hospitals of their individual ethical duties. They have now gained a reputation of charging exorbitant expenses — working into hundreds of 1000’s of rupees.
The hospitals’ circumstance is not quite convincing. Unsurprisingly, the society’s scenario is gaining clout and petitioners are joining hands in searching for reduction as the petitions are clubbed collectively. It is also getting requested why the hospitals should really financial institution on the inefficiency of the Senior Citizens Council that has nevertheless to issue the Azadi Card when age — the main qualifying criterion for the holder — can be ascertained from the patient’s CNIC.
Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2021