Updated: August 5, 2018 9:08:40 am
Last month, the state government lowered the age for a person to be regarded as a senior citizen, from 65 years to 60 years, bringing it in line with the age criteria observed by the central government. The decision will extend a host of benefits to a new group of people, numbering several lakhs.
All the benefits which senior citizens above 65 enjoyed will be available to those who are 60 years of age. At 60, they will become eligible for pension schemes such as Shravan Bal Seva Rajya Pension Scheme and Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Anudan Yojana. Other benefits include the reduction in hospital fees, availability of medicines at cheaper or even free rates in state and civic hospitals, and concessional travel in public transport buses run by civic bodies. Seniors also get 50 per cent fare concession in state-run buses, a system which is in place across the country.
In Maharashtra, the state government has gone a step further to ensure that life becomes a bit comfortable for senior citizens. Besides making medical facilities available on priority and at concessional rates, the government is also taking steps to provide concessions to seniors in property tax and a few other taxes. It has directed builders to reserve some space for old age homes and private hospitals to provide 50 per cent concession to them in their medical bills. Additionally, the government is planning to make it mandatory for cooperative societies to put in place facilities like multi-purpose halls and western-style toilets for senior citizens and create conditions favourable for their movement.
At the recent monsoon session of the state legislature, MLAs from the ruling party as well as the opposition had tabled a ‘Calling Attention’ motion, urging the state government to place a policy for senior citizens before the House. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the government would soon place such a policy in the House. However, minutes later, Social Justice Minister Rajkumar Badole announced the first part of the policy. In the second part, the government will announce fiscal concessions for the elderly, he said. The first part involves setting up a committee, as per the directions of the Chief Minister. “After the committee gives its report, we will announce the second part of the senior citizens’ policy,” said Badole. As part of the senior citizens’ policy, the government said it will bear the expenditure of around Rs 1,000 crore for various services and facilities. It will also have to bear an additional burden of over Rs 600 crore every year, said officials.
To ensure physical and mental health of senior citizens, the government will make available various facilities required for the purpose. In government hospitals attached to medical colleges, five per cent of beds will be reserved for senior citizens and in government hospitals, senior citizens will get priority. In private hospitals, medical institutes and charitable hospitals, senior citizens will get 50 per cent concessions in medical bills. “We have also instructed private doctors to provide concessions in fees,” said Badole.
The state government said it has decided to ensure that in all hospitals in Maharashtra, there are separate clinics and departments for senior citizens. The government has instructed gram panchayats, municipal councils and municipal corporations to provide concessions to senior citizens in property tax and other taxes. The government has also issued directions to the officials concerned to give permissions to cooperative societies only when their plan contains provisions for multi-purpose halls for seniors citizens, western toilets, non-slippery tiles and elderly-friendly bathrooms.
The government will try to ensure senior citizens don’t face any kind of harassment by setting up helplines in each district, to ensure quick medical and security services to seniors in case of emergencies. The state Home Department will be asked to prepare a list of senior citizens who stay alone. A police official, along with a social worker, will visit them once a month. The government said it will also make it mandatory for builders to construct old age homes for them in their upcoming townships.