Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Senior Citizens’ Woes
Once a person crosses the age of sixty years, he is generally haunted by a queer feeling of being neglected and unwanted not only by his near and dear ones but also by the society at large. Such a condition arises mainly because of a fall or complete lack of earning power of the aged. In a world which is obsessed with materialistic progress, such persons are being increasingly viewed as spoil-sports.
The government perhaps treats its senior citizens similarly – going by the total indifference shown towards their financial, physical and emotional issues. It gets satisfaction out of the fact that those in central/state government as well as their undertakings including public sector banks are well protected by pension schemes(thanks to the largesse of Fifth Pay Commission and the compensation given by way of variable D.A. adjustment against inflation). That takes care of only four persons out of every hundred having some employment – casual, regular, part-time or full-time. The government as well as the champions of labour unions representing the organized workforce are not bothered for the remaining as they are in the unorganized sectors and thus do not count much in vote bank politics.
The government, after lot of dithering, had introduced with fanfare the scheme known otherwise as Senior Citizen Saving Scheme which gives interest @ 9% quarterly on deposits from persons above 55 years. Its rules and procedures have been formulated in such manners that make life quite difficult for them. A few problems which they confront highlights their plight and are mentioned below..
Unlike the Monthly Interest Scheme available at post offices, the procedure for getting quarterly interests has been made avoidably cumbersome and the facility of paying through individual bank accounts (ECS) has not been extended strangely to this scheme. If the quarterly interests exceed Rs20000/-, payment by cheque is mandatory. But then one has to queue up in the first instance 7-10 days before the payment becomes due just to submit a written request to do so. Then he has to queue up again on the due date for physically collecting the cheque.
As if the cup of misery of senior citizens was not full, Finance Ministry thought it fit to introduce recently tougher conditions for those who are being serviced by the scheme. By making the interest taxable and that too with retrospective effect, the hapless senior citizens who otherwise do not have to pay any tax are now required to file 15H or 15G forms at the post office payment counters.
The pitiable sight of harassed senior citizens struggling to get at their meagre savings is testimony enough to show how little the government cares for them. Surely, they deserve better consideration.


Anonymous said...

Very descriptive indeed. I think it is high time senior citizens registered their protest. Dignity Fdn is very tempted to launch a "We will not cast our VOTE till Finance Ministry harrassment Stops" campaign on Aug 15th where in SHivaji Park we call seniors to assemble, collect all their election cards and send them to FM. Can you Comment?

Sheilu Sreenivasan

Satish said...

Yes, Dr Sheilu Sreenivasan! The voice of protest must become louder and louder till justice is to the Senior Citizens. Mere rhetorics and a few slogans in public places to show respect to the senior citizens are no substitute to giving relief to them.