News : Helpline for Senior Citizens Still in Limbo
July 15, 2014 -- Though a helpline for senior citizens was sanctioned last month for Udupi, the implementation of this project has run into rough weather.
The objective of the helpline is to provide help to senior citizens facing harassment or financial exploitation from their children and other related problems.
As per government norms, the helpline with a toll free number 1090 should be established at a room in the District Police Office.
It should function round-the-clock and must be supervised by a non-governmental organisation (NGO). The NGO should work in coordination with the Departments for Empowerment of Senior Citizens and District Police.
The helpline should be manned by a project coordinator who should be a postgraduate, three counsellors or social workers who have a Master in Social Work (MSW) degree, an office assistant who should have passed SSLC and two police constables (one male and one female).
The Department for Empowerment of Senior Citizens (DESC) would provide funding annually for the honorariums of the five staff members and maintenance of the helpline. According to the District Officer for Empowerment of Senior Citizens Niranjan Bhat, there are about 70,000 senior citizens in Udupi district.
Though an NGO, District Federation of Women’s Associations (Zilla Mahila Mandaligala Okkoota), came forward to run the helpline, it was hamstrung by the fact that there were no rooms at the District Police Office (DPO) to operate it. Sarala Kanchan, president of the federation, said that she had recently met the Superintendent of Police M.B. Boralingiah to discuss the issue.
"But Mr. Boralingaiah said that there is no room at the DPO and also that the police department is facing staff shortage to provide two constables for the helpline," she said. The federation urged Mr. Boralingaiah to give the objections in writing so that it could pursue the matter with the DESC in Bangalore.
Confirming there was space constraint at the DPO, Mr. Boralingaiah said, "I will discuss the issue at the meeting of the district-level Senior Citizens Maintenance Act Implementation Committee to be held within two weeks and then decide the next step". An official at the DESC said that it was unlikely that anyone with an MSW degree will work at the helpline at a monthly honorarium of Rs. 10,000 per month when there were better opportunities elsewhere. According to the Senior Citizens’ Association, there was an increase in the abuse of elders in the district.
"Our association has handled many cases of harassment of elders. Hence, we have been persistently demanding a helpline for senior citizens," said the association president A.P. Kodancha.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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