Lonely People In The Lonely Planet
The Police have recovered a three-day-old rotten cadaver of an old lady from the hall room of a building in eastern Indian city of Kolkata. Before this, the Police recovered the burnt body of another old woman. Although the two incidents were somewhat similar, their perspectives were entirely different. Both the ladies were staying alone, in a busy city. Nowadays, the society has started considering such consequences of staying alone as normal. It is to be noted that staying alone and loneliness are not the same. Loneliness has emerged as a new epidemic across the globe, as the aged people fail to adapt themselves to the fast lifestyle of the present days. They are not just emotionally alone, but alone in each and every sphere of life.
As per a report prepared by the National Statistical Office, an estimated 200 million people shall be over the age of 60 in more than 13% areas in India by 2031, and a large part of this huge number of senior citizens shall have no partner. Now, the question arises here: Is the Indian State fully prepared to provide security to these lonely people and meet their basic needs? It may be noted that the condition of women is more alarming. Even in 2021, only 10% of the rural and 11% of the urban aged women are self-reliant. The condition of the rest of the women and aged men is not promising, either. They do not have steady sources of income, and many of them have become physically and mentally disabled. Furthermore, many of them have nothing to eat, barely places to live, no money for medical treatment, and nowhere to visit to.
In the First World, people have already started depositing in Time Bank for old age support; however, the system is yet to get success. In India, senior citizens, with sufficient bank balance, are taking shelter in old-age homes, while others even tend to develop a tendency of committing suicide. There are hardly State-run projects to address issues related to senior citizens in India. Of course, some voluntary organisations are running old-age homes in different Indian cities, and the State provides these organisations with some facilities. However, these arrangements shall not be sufficient to save 200 million aged people in 2031.
There are various types of single persons in India. While legal spouses of some of them have perished, others are childless, or neglected by their children. Some of the aged have become lonely, as their children have left India for foreign countries in search of a better career. The Indian judiciary, too, has expressed serious concern over their situation, time and again.
There is another aspect of loneliness. Many among the senior citizens want to stay alone in India. In fact, there are two levels of age. In other words, the two types of psychology do not allow two different generations to live together in most of the cases. Many parents voluntarily decide to stay alone in old age, or to stay in old-age homes. Indian society is accustomed to considering children as the future security credit card of their parents, and it is not at all unreasonable. At the same time, it is also quite natural for the people, who love to live in the past, to live with the younger generation people.
Also, there are many who want to be alone for the rest of their lives, while others may realise at a certain stage of life that they would be able to enjoy their lives to the fullest, if they stay alone. Often, the quasi-feudal Indian society considers the condition of these people miserable, instead of accepting their decision to live alone as a part of their Freedom and Basic Rights. The Traditional society, at times, fails to realise that the mechanical habit of living in a family often undermines the individuality of a person. One should learn how to respect the Individual Liberty in the modern world. Of course, a person can survive alone only if s/he manages to meet the basic needs of life, like safety, medical care and proper living conditions. Otherwise, no one can live or die honourably.
It seems that the time has come to recognise people’s decision to live alone. It is the responsibility of the State to help senior citizens live alone, avail medical facilities, and get security. For this, the State would have to expand its scope of duty towards senior citizens. Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and some other countries have done it. The Right to Stay Alone is one of the basic rights of (senior) citizens of a Democratic country. The State has a responsibility towards every single citizen, like every single family. The Indian State should accept this fact. If there is a wish, success will come automatically.
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