Senior citizens & weaker sections of society
Whether one likes it or not, Globalization is here. It is deemed desirable for some reasons and hated for some. The reason that evokes the strongest feelings of hatred is invariably the cultural and thereby social impact of Globalization. The pressures of survival increasingly uproot people and send them to distant places in search of jobs and business.
1. This has a direct impact on the traditional structure of our society. The ‘joint family’ breaks up and young couples go ‘nuclear’. One greatly important and tragic casualty in this process is the dignity of the old and the infirm.
2. Those who have retired from their jobs and business due to old age and poor health, those who worked at home all their lives but are incapable of working any more, those who are not fortunate enough to have an adequate lifelong pension and even those who could never work all their lives in the mainstream because they were handicapped in some way. All these people form a large chunk of our population.
3. Then there are the vast multitudes of rural poor, landless laborers working in the unorganized sector, the rural and urban unemployed, the widows and orphans, the victims of natural calamities, riots and disastrous accidents. There are desperately poor and malnourished tribal whose traditional life-support systems are fast vanishing, the fishermen who are fighting a losing battle with the brutal forces of ecological disturbance and pollution. There are victims of diseases ranging from leprosy to AIDS who society refuses to accept, but are here to stay anyway. All these and the rest of the citizens who are economically backward for various reasons are struggling from one day to the next without hope. We seem to have the ingredients of a full-scale civil war here. Indeed, it is a miracle of sorts that it has not already broken out.
4. A recent study showed that India is currently one of the ‘youngest’ countries in the world, meaning a large chunk of our population is between 25 and 45 years of age. This is considered to be ‘lucky’ and is of great economic importance. The flip side is that due to the current social trends of late marriages and family planning, after say the next twenty years, we will have one of the world’s largest ‘old’ populations, like some European countries today. At that time, the support systems provided by the traditional joint family will have practically disappeared. The big question that looms upon us is how will all these people fend for themselves in their old age?
5. Most developed countries have put in place Social Security systems of varying efficiency. In India, there is no such system. Even the Pension paid to retired Government servants (a minute fraction of the
population) is an unbearable burden on the treasury. There is no provision of a ‘Survival allowance’ for the unemployed. There is no assured and adequate income to enable a physically/mentally/economically handicapped person live with bare minimum dignity. It is nothing but a paucity of funds and resources that stands between such a comprehensive Social security system and our Society.