Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Care of the Aged

Today, Punjab has enacted the "Punjab Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act". It forces the family members to support their elderly relatives. The goodwill that such an enforcement will bring can only be imagined.

The text of the act is available here, in the usual legal-speak.

Here is a Q&A for the perplexed:

Q: Do elders need care and support?
A: Yes.

Q: Should they get care and support?
A: Who is being asked? If you are the government, then Yes (but you won't provide it yourself, in a naked display of hypocrisy). If you are a "bad" family member, then No (but you will provide it, forced by the law). If you are a "good" family member, then Yes (and most probably, the women in your family will do it).

Q: What can the old do?
A: If living with the family, they should behave and not create problems. If living off the state, they should be glad and play cards.

Q: Can they get care and support for money?
A: Not in India, where care of the body is seen as a repulsive task (the body is mal mutra). Attrition rate is very high for home nurses.

Q: Do they have the money, even if they can get it?
A: Not in the third world. Most of the elderly have meager savings, and inflation-bashed pensions.

Q: Who needs to take on the "burden"?
A: According to the law: The heirs of their property. What do you think?

Q: What if they do not have any property?
A: By law: Their offspring still have to provide for them. They can sulk, but they have to do it.

Q: What if they do not have any offspring, nor any property, nor any money?
A: They should die.

Q: Can they get medical insurance in their old age?
A: No, not in India. They should die.

Q: Can't they call the hospital in case of a medical problem?
A: No. Hospitals in India respond, if at all, to emergency calls. The definition of emergency in a poor country is: impending death.

Q: Isn't it all too depressing?
A: You haven't seen nothing yet! Read this (this is about supporting the poor children, but you can apply similar ideas to the present situation).

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