In his inaugural address, Shri Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment elaborated on the policies and programs being implemented currently by the Ministry. “We are committed to doing everything we can to address the issue of the elderly and the Ministry will not only sustain the 500 programmes that are being implemented across the country for the elderly and will ensure pension for the elderly. We will also strengthen convergence with all key social sector ministries-such as Health and Family Welfare, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and the Census Commission to name a few to ensure a coordinated response on the multiple challenges we are facing,” he stated. He went on to assure all stakeholders present that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will take on board all the recommendations and suggestions made at the Conference and ensure its implementation.
Addressing the challenges generated by the rising numbers of the elderly, Shri Sudhir Bhargava, Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment pointed out that the major challenge before all stakeholders is the quality of preparedness to cope not just with the rising numbers but also with the complex set of problems posed by the 80+ ageing population. “We estimate that we will need 10 million caregivers to address the needs of this population and a massive training programme to create competent human resource is a vital area that we need to collectively address,” he emphasized.
Ms. Frederika Meijer, Representative, UNFPA India, emphasized that what the BKPAI (Building a Knowledge Base on Population Ageing in India) initiative has done is to develop the much needed data base at the macro level focusing on the elderly in India.
Elucidating further, she stated that: “UNFPA research in India finds that India is witnessing a rapid rise in the proportion of elderly in the population, especially of older women. The feminisation of ageing requires critical attention as many elderly women face greater vulnerabilities and isolation at older ages. Efforts to ensure that the elderly can exercise their rights to health, to security and to dignity must especially factor in measures to improve the lives of elderly women.”
The key areas identified for more focused deliberation were social security, health, women and ageing and special initiatives mounted by state government to reduce the vulnerability of the elderly.
In this context, mention was made of the fact that the UNFPA study had shown that a significant proportion of the elderly were aware of social security schemes such as the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS) and the Annapurna Scheme but the utilization of all three schemes was low among the target group. Because of this only 18 per cent of elderly belonging to poor households were beneficiaries of IGNOAPS, while only 3.5 per cent utilize the Annapurna Scheme and a quarter of elderly widowed women utilize the IGNWPS.
The two day Consultation aims at harnessing the good practices being implemented by the Government and deepening the engagement with the concerns of the elderly and to translate evidence into purposeful action has brought together four key Ministries- Social Justice and Empowerment, Rural Development, Panchayat Raj and Health and Family Welfare is organized by UNFPA to deliberate on the in-depth findings on the elderly that emerged from seven-state study done by UNFPA with the technical support from leading research organizations. The research organizations included Population Research Centre (PRC), Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bengaluru, the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), Delhi and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.
Present on the occasion were Shri Sudhir Bargava, Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri Anoop Kumar Srivastava, Special Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment and senior officials of the Ministry