Kathmandu, June 29

Women and Social Committee of the House of Representatives, which will begin clause-wise discussion on the Senior Citizens Act (Amendment) Bill from July 5, faces the challenge of striking a balance while fixing the responsibility of the state and families in providing maintenance and care for senior citizens.

Chairperson of Women and Social Committee Niru Devi Pal said her panel was cautious about striking a balance in the bill which has already been passed by the National Assembly where it originated.

Eighteen lawmakers have sought amendment in the bill with some seeking to establish senior citizens care homes in all the seven provinces and others seeking to place the obligation of maintenance and care also on daughters and son-in-laws and not only on sons.

“Some children have taken very good care of their parents whereas some others who are settled in foreign countries have sold their share of property in Nepal and abandoned their parents,” Pal said.

President of Nepal Senior Citizens Federation Madandas Shrestha said the House panel needed to revise the bill’s provision that said children should provide 10 per cent of their salary to senior citizen parents as that could lead to conflict in the families.

“If children are compelled to pay 10 per cent of their salary to their parents, then they might think that they have no more responsibility towards parents and in that case, elderly parents’ care could be more challenging in the future,” he said and added that the government needed to compel insurance companies to insure senior citizens who are not insured as per the current rules.

Shrestha said the bill should incorporate a provision to ensure that senior citizens wishing to open their own small business for their livelihood could get loans from banks and financial institutions.

“Nobody gives loans to senior citizens who do not have enough property to show as collateral,” Shrestha said.

According to him, separate units of community police could be deployed in localities to keep record of the well-being of senior citizens.

Shrestha also said lawmakers should incorporate provisions in the bill whereby the government would start collecting social security tax at least from government employees and later pay the same amount to the former employees in their old age.

“This will reduce the government’s burden,” he said.

Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi said the constitution placed responsibility on the state to take care of senior citizens. He said senior citizens were living in pitiable condition due to lack of state welfare mechanism and loss of eastern family values in society.

“In the past, senior citizens were taken very good care of by children but these days, children do not have the same feeling towards their parents,” Tripathi said and added that the state should also think of providing part-time employment opportunity to those senior citizens who wanted to work.

“Opportunity to work will give senior citizens a sense of dignity and empowerment,” he added.

He said raising old age pension for senior citizens would not be enough for their care and the government needed to come up with a comprehensive welfare scheme for them.

Tripathi also said property law needed to be changed to incorporate the will system so that parents could always use their property for their own benefit.