NGO’s – Non-governmental organization
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by private organizations or people with no participation or representation of any government. In the cases in which NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments, the NGO maintains its non-governmental status insofar as it excludes government representatives from membership in the organization.
The number of internationally operating NGOs is estimated at 40,000. National numbers are even higher: Russia has 277,000 NGOs. India is estimated to have between 1 million and 2 million NGOs.
International non-governmental organizations have a history dating back to at least the mid-nineteenth century. They were important in the anti-slavery movement and the movement for women’s suffrage, and reached a peak at the time of the World Disarmament Conference. However, the phrase “non-governmental organization” only came into popular use with the establishment of the United Nations Organization in 1945 with provisions in Article 71 of Chapter 10 of the United Nations Charter for a consultative role for organizations which are neither governments nor member states â€“ see Consultative Status. The definition of “international NGO” (INGO) is first given in resolution 288 (X) of ECOSOC on February 27, 1950: it is defined as “any international organization that is not founded by an international treaty”. The vital role of NGOs and other “major groups” in sustainable development was recognised in Chapter 27 of Agenda 21, leading to intense arrangements for a consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.
Globalisation during the 20th century gave rise to the importance of NGOs. Many problems could not be solved within a nation. International treaties and international organizations such as the World Trade Organization were perceived as being too centred on the interests of capitalist enterprises. Some argued that in an attempt to counterbalance this trend, NGOs have developed to emphasise humanitarian issues, developmental aid and sustainable development. A prominent example of this is the World Social Forum which is a rival convention to the World Economic Forum held annually in January in Davos, Switzerland. The fifth World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January 2005 was attended by representatives from more than 1,000 NGOs. Some have argued that in forums like these, NGOs take the place of what should belong to popular movements of the poor. Others argue that NGOs are often imperialist in nature and that they fulfill a similar function to that of the clergy during the high colonial era. Whatever the case, NGO transnational networking is now extensive.
Types of NGOs
Apart from ‘NGO’ often alternative terms are used as for example independent sector, volunteer sector, civil society, grassroots organisations, transnational social movement organisations, private voluntary organisations, self-help organisations and non-state actors (NSA’s).
Nongovernmental organisations are a heterogeneous group. A long list of acronyms has developed around the term ‘NGO’.
â€¢ BINGO is short for business-oriented international NGO, or big international NGO;
â€¢ CSO, short for civil society organization;
â€¢ ENGO, short for environmental NGO, such as Global 2000;
â€¢ GONGOs are government-operated NGOs, which may have been set up by governments to look like NGOs in order to qualify for outside aid or promote the interests of the government in question;
â€¢ INGO stands for international NGO;
â€¢ QUANGOs are quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). (The ISO is actually not purely an NGO, since its membership is by nation, and each nation is represented by what the ISO Council determines to be the ‘most broadly representative’ standardisation body of a nation. That body might itself be a nongovernmental organisation; for example, the United States is represented in ISO by the American National Standards Institute, which is independent of the federal government. However, other countries can be represented by national governmental agencies; this is the trend in Europe.)
â€¢ TANGO, short for technical assistance NGO;
There are also numerous classifications of NGOs. The typology the World Bank uses divides them into Operational and Advocacy:
The primary purpose of an operational NGO is the design and implementation of development-related projects. One frequently used categorisation is the division into ‘relief-oriented’ or ‘development-oriented’ organisations; they can also be classified according to whether they stress service delivery or participation; or whether they are religious or secular; and whether they are more public or private-oriented. Operational NGOs can be community-based, national or international.
The primary purpose of an Advocacy NGO is to defend or promote a specific cause. As opposed to operational project management, these organisations typically try to raise awareness, acceptance and knowledge by lobbying, press work and activist events.
USAID refers to NGOs as private voluntary organisations. However many scholars have argued that this definition is highly problematic as many NGOs are in fact state and corporate funded and managed projects with professional staff.
NGOs exist for a variety of reasons, usually to further the political or social goals of their members or funders. Examples include improving the state of the natural environment, encouraging the observance of human rights, improving the welfare of the disadvantaged, or representing a corporate agenda. However, there are a huge number of such organisations and their goals cover a broad range of political and philosophical positions. This can also easily be applied to private schools and athletic organisations.
NGOs vary in their methods. Some act primarily as lobbyists, while others conduct programs and activities primarily. For instance, an NGO such as Oxfam, concerned with poverty alleviation, might provide needy people with the equipment and skills to find food and clean drinking water.
Non-governmental organizations need healthy relationships with the public to meet their goals. Foundations and charities use sophisticated public relations campaigns to raise funds and employ standard lobbying techniques with governments. Interest groups may be of political importance because of their ability to influence social and political outcomes. At times NGOs seek to mobilize public support such as the by the NGO Global Warming Alliance.
Many international NGOs have a consultative status with United Nations agencies relevant to their area of work. As an example, the Third World Network has a consultative status with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). While in 1946, only 41 NGOs had consultative status with the ECOSOC, by 2003 this number had risen to 3550.
There is an increasing awareness that management techniques are crucial to project success in non-governmental organizations. Generally, non-governmental organizations that are private have either a community or environmental focus. They address varieties of issues such as religion, emergency aid, or humanitarian affairs. They mobilize public support and voluntary contributions for aid; they often have strong links with community groups in developing countries, and they often work in areas where government-to-government aid is not possible. NGOs are accepted as a part of the international relations landscape, and while they influence national and multilateral policy-making, increasingly they are more directly involved in local action.
Not all people working for non-governmental organisations are volunteers. The reasons people volunteer are not necessarily purely altruistic, and can provide immediate benefits for themselves as well as those they serve, including skills, experience, and contacts.
There is some dispute as to whether expatriates should be sent to developing countries. Frequently this type of personnel is employed to satisfy a donor who wants to see the supported project managed by someone from an industrialised country. However, the expertise these employees or volunteers may have can be counterbalanced by a number of factors: the cost of foreigners is typically higher, they have no grassroot connections in the country they are sent to, and local expertise is often undervalued.
The NGO sector is an important employer in terms of numbers. For example, by the end of 1995, CONCERN worldwide, an international Northern NGO working against poverty, employed 174 expatriates and just over 5,000 national staff working in ten developing countries in Africa and Asia, and in Haiti.
Large NGOs may have annual budgets in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. For instance, the budget of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) was over US$540 million in 1999.. Funding such large budgets demands significant fundraising efforts on the part of most NGOs. Major sources of NGO funding include membership dues, the sale of goods and services, grants from international institutions or national governments, and private donations. Several EU-grants provide funds accessible to NGOs.
Even though the term “non-governmental organization” implies independence from governments, some NGOs depend heavily on governments for their funding. A quarter of the US$162 million income in 1998 of the famine-relief organization Oxfam was donated by the British government and the EU. The Christian relief and development organization World Vision collected US$55 million worth of goods in 1998 from the American government. Nobel Prize winner MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res (MSF) (known in the USA as Doctors Without Borders) gets 46% of its income from government sources.
Monitoring and control
In a March 2000 report on United Nations Reform priorities, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote in favor of international humanitarian intervention, arguing that the international community has a “right to protect” citizens of the world against ethnic cleansing, genocide, and crimes against humanity. On the heels of the report, the Canadian government launched the Responsibility to Protect project, outlining the issue of humanitarian intervention. While the R2P doctrine has wide applications, among the more controversial has been the Canadian government’s use of R2P to justify its intervention and support of the coup in Haiti.
Years after R2P, the World Federalist Movement, an organization which supports “the creation of democratic global structures accountable to the citizens of the world and call for the division of international authority among separate agencies”, has launched Responsibility to Protect – Engaging Civil Society (R2PCS). A collaboration between the WFM and the Canadian government, this project aims to bring NGOs into lockstep with the principles outlined under the original R2P project.
The governments of the countries an NGO works or is registered in may require reporting or other monitoring and oversight. Funders generally require reporting and assessment, such information is not necessarily publicly available. There may also be associations and watchdog organizations that research and publish details on the actions of NGOs working in particular geographic or program areas.
In recent years, many large corporations have increased their corporate social responsibility departments in an attempt to preempt NGO campaigns against certain corporate practices. As the logic goes, if corporations work with NGOs, NGOs will not work against corporations.
In December 2007, The United States Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) established an International Health Division under Force Health Protection & Readiness. Part of International Health’s mission is to communicate with NGOs in areas of mutual interest. Department of Defense Directive 3000.05, in 2005, requires DoD to regard stability-enhancing activities as a mission of importance equal to warfighting. In compliance with international law, DoD has necessarily built a capacity to improve essential services in areas of conflict such as Iraq, where the customary lead agencies (State Department and USAID) find it difficult to operate. Unlike the “co-option” strategy described for corporations, the OASD(HA) recognizes the neutrality of health as an essential service. International Health cultivates collaborative relationships with NGOs, albeit at arms-length, recognizing their traditional independence, expertise and honest broker status. While the goals of DoD and NGOs may seem incongruent, the DoD’s emphasis on stability and security to reduce and prevent conflict suggests, on careful analysis, important mutual interests.
NGOs are not subjects of international law, as states are. An exception is the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is subject to certain specific matters, mainly relating to the Geneva Convention.
The Council of Europe in Strasbourg drafted the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organizations in 1986, which sets a common legal basis for the existence and work of NGOs in Europe. Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of association, which is also a fundamental norm for NGOs.
There is a growing movement within the â€œnonâ€-profit and â€œnonâ€-government sector to define itself in a more constructive, accurate way. Instead of being defined by â€œnonâ€ words, organizations are suggesting new terminology to describe the sector. The term â€œcivil society organizationâ€ (CSO) has been used by a growing number of organizations, such as the Center for the Study of Global Governance. The term â€œcitizen sector organizationâ€ (CSO) has also been advocated to describe the sector â€” as one of citizens, for citizens. This labels and positions the sector as its own entity, without relying on language used for the government or business sectors. However some have argued that this is not particularly helpful given that most NGOs are in fact funded by governments and business.
NGO – PRATHAM
Pratham started in the slums of Mumbai in 1994, as a result of the vision of a couple of committed individuals! The two, after much deliberation, decided to tackle the problem of education headlong. They could see only one way of correcting this problem and that was to involve the people of Mumbai to help the government in its quest of universalizing primary education. UNICEF parented the birth of Pratham and continued fostering it for the next three years. A Public Charitable Trust was accordingly formed by the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai together with the association of several prominent citizens of the city.
Today, the parental role of Pratham has been taken over by the ICICI Bank, a leading private sector bank of India. Pratham activities have spread to 21 states; assistance has come from the local governments, leading corporate houses and the local citizens. Many local trusts and governing bodies have been formed to oversee the smooth operations of Pratham activities; committed individuals from every walk of life have chipped in with their bit.
Friends of Pratham have started Pratham chapters in the USA, UK and the Middle East, to promote and support the Pratham cause in India. Overseas funding agencies such as the OXFAM NOVIB, NPL, AIF have also been sufficiently impressed by the work of Pratham, to start funding certain Pratham activities in a few states.
Since inception the goal of the Pratham team has been to ensure that “every child is in school â€¦.. and is learning well”. Over this 9 year period Pratham has reached out to a million children. An accelerated learning method, in which an unlettered child starts reading and computing basic mathematics in 3 weeks, has been in use since late 2002 and has taught over 160,000 children since then to become literate.
In 2000, The Global Development Network Award, sponsored by the World Bank / Government of Japan was awarded to Pratham. Pratham was named as one of the top three “most innovative development projects”.
Four key elements make Pratham’s work unique. Comprehensive Geographical Outlook, All Encompassing, Replicable and Strong Foundation.
Pratham takes a total geographical approach, be it a city, a rural block or a taluka. The “complete coverage” approach, coupled with close links and co-operation with the government, distinguishes it from other non-governmental organizations.
The organization is based on a triangular partnership: the government, the corporate sector and the citizens. In each city, the corporate leaders have taken the lead, the government has responded by opening its school and sharing its facilities, and the community volunteers, mostly young enthusiastic women from slums, implement the Pratham programmes.
The model is simple to implement and easily replicable. No immovable assets are acquired unless a donor specifically requests and the need is clearly established. Administrative costs are kept low. Consequently, Pratham Network has spread to 21 states across India.
The extensive network in the slum area enables Pratham to layer other activities, such as health and computer education, at a minimum additional cost of delivery. It also gives the researchers and academicians an opportunity to collect primary data.
Balwadi Pre-School Program
Universalization of pre-school education is an important strategy for achieving universalization of primary education. If every child can avail of some kind of early childhood education, the chances are high that the child will go on to regular school. Moreover, the pre-school exposure will enhance and strengthen the child’s subsequent school performance, in terms of achievement and attendance.
â€¢ Targets pre-school children in the 3-5 years age group
â€¢ Aims at exposing unreached children from low-income families to early childhood education
â€¢ Located either at a municipal school, community space, place of worship or a teacher’s home
â€¢ Each class has around 18 children with an instructor from the local community and runs for 2-3 hours a day
Bridge Course Program
The Bridge Course program was designed with the assumption that a “bridge” needs to be built to prepare and support out-of-school children (of primary school age) socially and academically to enter or re-enter the formal school system.
â€¢ Targets children in the 6-12 years age group who have never attended school or have dropped out
â€¢ Aims at using informal methods of education, gradually moving towards a structured set-up and then placing the children in a formal school
â€¢ Classes generally start in the community and move to the local municipal school building if space is available
â€¢ Comprises of around 15-20 children with a teacher from the local community who has a minimum Std X education
Balsakhi Remedial Education Program
This program is designed to help children who are identified by their class teachers as lagging behind academically. With a little extra help and encouragement, children can make substantial progress in basic math and language skills within two months or less.
â€¢ Targets municipal school children from Std II – IV bordering on illiteracy
â€¢ Aims at helping these students achieve literacy and numeracy skills of Std II level
â€¢ The Balsakhi – child’s friend – normally works with 20-30 children identified by the school teachers
â€¢ Balsakhis are sent to schools on the request of the head masters and they work under the supervision/ guidance of school teachers
â€¢ The Balsakhi must be at least Std XII, from the local community with ample enthusiasm for working with children
Akhar Setu Program
The difficulties in mainstreaming children who are working or supporting their parents economically and therefore unable to attend school, older children who cannot be admitted to there age specific class, and for children who have no schools nearby gave birth to the concept of Akhar Setu. Pratham Jaipur conceptualized the program with active support from Janshala Rajasthan.
The model has been devised to address the specific need of the given area. The salient features of the model are as follows:
â€¢ Children in Akhar Setu are formally registered in a nearby Government School with the rights and privileges similar to that of children regularly attending that government school.
â€¢ Regular Classes are held in the community itself (as in the case of Bridge class) by Balsakhis.
â€¢ Children are allowed to participate in all the extra curricular activities of the school.
â€¢ All the children are required to take the exams conducted by the school and get their certificate from the school.
â€¢ The Head Master of the school to which the Akhar Setu is affiliated is required to make a periodic and/or random visit to this class and verify attendance once a month.
The outreach program provides educational opportunities to child laborers, street children, pavement dwellers and children in conflict with law. Teaching and learning happens in places of work, on streets, pavements, railway platforms – wherever children want to learn. Unlike the other Pratham programs, the outreach program includes several sub-activities, as follows:
â€¢ In contact: Child meets Pratham activist a few times a week for conversational contact
â€¢ Contact Class: The instructor meets children at or near the children’s work place individually, or in small groups to teach for about 30 minutes.
â€¢ Hobby class: Group meets to draw, do handicraft, play- over 3-5 hours
â€¢ Study Class: The working children are taught at their work place in groups for 1-2 hours.
Starting with a ‘contact class’ where a Pratham person develops a casual contact with children, the program moves to hobby classes where children meet regularly. Many members of the hobby class then move to more serious ‘study class’. In 2001, over 300 children from such classes in Mumbai were mainstreamed into schools and appear to have stayed on there.
Pratham Health was started in Mumbai in August 1999, to tackle some of the most wide spread health problems among the Balwadi children namely anemia, worm, infestation and Vitamin A deficiency. An early pilot study of 250 children revealed that over 90% were anemic, over 70% were malnourished and over 50% suffered from vitamin deficiency. Based on these findings, Pratham Health drafted a simple program of micronutrient intervention, which was adopted by the Niramaya Health Foundation (NHF). NHF was founded in June 2001 to expand and manage the health activities of the Pratham Mumbai Education Initiative. NHF continues to implement Pratham’s health interventions in Mumbai.
Subsequently, in response to the felt needs of the communities served, NHF introduced two programs for older children – Reach Out Program and Adolescent Family Life Education. NHF is also very active in providing health education to parents of Balwadi children, children in the “Reach out” program and to Balwadi teachers. Special Nutrition Education with cooking demonstration and importance of locally available produce is imparted to the mothers in improving the malnourished status of their children.
A programme for Balwadi children is also being implemented Delhi, funded by ICICI, with the aim of assessing, among others, the effect of a medical intervention delivered through preschools on the educational outcomes, including preschool attendance rates, primary school entry rates, and academic test scores. The salient features of this programme are:
â€¢ Basic health interventions through Balwadis for children whose parents agree to participate
â€¢ Each child is checked for weight and height every 3 months
â€¢ Children given Vitamin A, iron supplements, and de-worming medication in 3-month cycles
â€¢ The medication is given by the pre-school instructor, under the supervision of a Health Trainer Monitor (TM)
â€¢ Health TMs are periodically trained in matters of general health and are now beginning to focus on issues of reproductive health.
Pratham Education Center
Pratham Education Centers are organized where there no schools or the schools are already over-crowded. PECs bring together five bridge course classes in one location usually in a rented building with five bridge course teachers one of whom takes some additional administrative responsibilities. Currently, PECs operate in Patna (under a NOVIB-funded program). There is a need to start such centers in Delhi and probably in other cities as well.
Computer Assisted Learning
Prathamâ€™s CAL Program aims to make the advantages and benefits of early exposure and familiarity with computers available to a wider cross section of society and level the playing field across geographical and socio-economic boundaries.
1. Bridge the digital divide in government and government aided schools and enable children to experience technology and computers
2. Use computer technology to positively impact childrenâ€™s learning levels.
3. Impact childrenâ€™s learning in competencies like math and language skills as well as in domain knowledge like science, history, geography etc
4. Expose school teachers to computer technology and train them in its potential usages
5. Increase parental and community interest in computer technology and its uses in school education.
6. Use IT to help in school management.
7. Train community youth in computer technology (after school hours).
NGO â€“ HELP AGE INDIA
HelpAge India is secular, not-for-profit organization registered under the Societies’ Registration Act of 1860. We were set up in 1978, and since then have been raising resources to protect the rights of Indiaâ€™s elderly and provide relief to them through various interventions.
We voice the needs of Indiaâ€™s 90 million (current estimate)â€œgreyâ€ population, and directly impact the lives of lakhs of elders through our services every year.
We advocate with national & local government to bring about policy that is beneficial to the elderly.
We make society aware of the concerns of the aged and promote better understanding of ageing issues.
We help the elderly become aware of their own rights so that they get their due and are able to play an active role in society.
Turning back the pages
The origins of HelpAge India go back to the late 1960s when the then speaker of the Lok Sabha visited his counterpart in the House of Commons(UK), who was also honorary secretary of an organisation called Help The Aged. He came back with a vision of setting up something similar in India.
But it took 7 years for this vision to take shape. In March 1974, when Mr. Jackson Cole, founder of HelpAge International visited India, an intrepid philanthropist named Samson Daniel approached him for financial help to set up a member organisation in Delhi. A far-sighted man, Mr. Cole instead offered to train him to raise funds. After a three month training course in London, Mr. Daniel and his wife returned to India and organised a sponsored walk with schoolchildren in Delhi. It was so successful that in 1975 HelpAge International recruited more staff to cover Bombay, Madras and Calcutta.
HelpAge India was on its way.
In April 1978, HelpAge India was registered in Delhi. Within three months it became autonomous as financial support ceased from UK. Soon after, in July, the Society was awarded Certificates of Exemption under Sections 12A and 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961, thus indicating general confidence in the Societyâ€™s affairs.
Upholding the Rights of the Aged
HelpAge India is the leading advocate for Older Peopleâ€™s rights. We speak up for Indiaâ€™s 90 million (current estimate) grey population to help them live with dignity, independence & self-fulfilment.
HelpAgeâ€™s Chief Executive represents the organisation on the National Planning Commission. We have been providing various inputs during formal/ informal discussions to Indiaâ€™s 11th Five Year Plan Document. HelpAge has actively participated in discussions for formulating the Union Ministry recommendations on the Plan document to the National Planning Commission. HelpAge is also a member of the National Council of Older Persons.
Our role is that of an enabler between two groups of people. development organisations and individuals working at grassroots-level with marginalised Elders, their families and communities, people like you, coming together from all walks of life who believe in the rights of the Aged
Why do the Aged need Help?
There are 81 m older people in India
We advocate with national & local government to bring about policy that is beneficial to the elderly.
We make society aware of issues concerning the aged and promote better understanding of them.
We help the elderly be aware of their rights and provide access to them.
A Matter of Policy
After 15 years of lobbying by HelpAge, the National Policy on Older Persons was announced by the Indian government in 1998. The draft for the policy was provided by HelpAge after a series of discussions and seminars across the country, involving various age-care experts.
Subsequently, the last year of the 20th century was dedicated by the Indian government to the elderly â€“ 1999 was declared National Year of Older Persons, with a view to focus on their needs.
An Action Plan for implementation of the Policy was also drafted and submitted to the government by HelpAge. Over the years, we have been playing a â€œwatchdogâ€ role in proper implementation of the Policy.
GOOD NEWS FOR SENIOR CITIZENS
Budget 2008 brings with it some relief for Senior citizens. Here are some highlights:
â€¢ For senior women citizens, the income tax limit increases from Rs. 1.95 lakh to Rs. 2.25 lakh.
â€¢ Three schemes to be introduced for providing social security to unorganized sector workers.
â€¢ A national programme for the elderly to be started at a cost of Rs. 400 crore.
â€¢ Rashtra Swasthya Beema Yojana to start from April one in Delhi and Haryana. Rs 30,000 for each family belonging to unorganized sector.
For over over a decade we have been writing to the Union Finance Minister to keep the welfare of the Aged in mind while drafting the Union budget. This sustained advocacy has led to a visible increase in the allocation for Senior Citizens. HelpAge is a member of the National Council of Older Persons and also part of the draft committee for the 5-year plans.
A financial climate has been created that recognises the needs of the elderly. Some of its manifestations are the following:
In recent years, banks have begun to give higher rates of interest to savings of older people.
Tax breaks for Senior Citizens have grown.
Special investment instruments, with higher yields, have been created for older investors.
PARENTS AND SENIOR CITIZENS MAINTENANCE ACT
The Maintenance & Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007
In recent times, society is witnessing a gradual but definite withering of joint family system, as a result of which a large number of parents are not being maintained by their children as was the normal social practice.
There is an apparent need to compel the progeny to perform the responsibilities which they have towards their parents in their old age. With their dwindling financial resources and weakening health, parents are often being perceived as a burden and even while living within the family, may face violence and/or neglect.
Many older persons are living without children. Widows, especially, are forced to spend their twilight years alone.There is now some good news for senior citizens, â€œThe Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill, 2007â€ was finally passed and has now become an Act and the States shall within a period of six months from the commencement of this Act form tribunals for deciding upon the order for maintenance. States have the powers to make rules for carrying out the objectives of the Act, which would be put before the concerned State Legislature for adoption.
Thrust Areas of the Act
The Act not just provides for Maintenance of the elderly but also for the following welfare measures:
â€¢ Better medical facilities
â€¢ Protection of life and property
â€¢ Old Age Homes in every District
â€¢ Under the Act, Maintenance Application can be filed by parents and senior citizens (above 60 years) unable to maintain himself/herself, against children (not minor) or relatives (who would inherit and are in possession of the property of the elderly).
â€¢ The Maintenance application can be filed by the senior citizen or parent or by any other person or organization authorized by him, if incapable of doing so himself.
â€¢ The Maintenance Application can be filed either in the District where the elderly resides, or where the children or relatives resides. Notices would be sent and the proceedings should conclude within 90 days from the date of service of the Maintenance Application on the children or relatives.
â€¢ The case would be referred for conciliation, if appropriate, before hearing. The findings of the conciliation officer (who can be the Maintenance Officer, NGO representative or anyone on behalf of the elderly) should be submitted to the Tribunal within a month. If an amicable settlement has been reached, Tribunal shall pass an order according to such settlement.
â€¢ If, children or relatives are ordered by the Tribunal to pay Maintenance to the elderly, fail to comply, they are liable to a fine or imprisonment.
â€¢ Abandonment of the elderly is now a cognizable offence. Anyone responsible for looking after or protecting the senior citizen, leaves him/her in any place with the intention of wholly abandoning, shall be punished and fined.
â€¢ Role of NGOs has also been legislated under the Act e.g. for filing maintenance applications on behalf of the elderly if he/she is unable to do so himself/herself, for reconciliation and representation of his/her case if unable to do so and authorizes someone else to represent and facilitate
Poorest Areas Civil Society Programme
Community Mobilisation and Advocacy for the Elderly: Improving Access To Social Welfare Schemes
In India, a number of central and state government schemes have been devised to mitigate problems faced by the aged, ranging from pensions to medical aid, travel concessions, preferential interest rates. Further, the destitute aged also qualifies as potential beneficiaries of a slew of poverty reduction/ relief schemes.
But there is very little mass awareness on the same. Moreover, benefits of the scheme rarely ever reach the aged if they are poor and illiterate, if they live in remote backward regions and if they belong to socially oppressed communities.
The prevalent poor structures of communication, implementation and enforcement have exacerbated the problem of accessibility to these schemes and services. In addition, older persons rarely receive support from panchayats and other formal political institutions; and there are virtually no associations/ institutions working for their interests at the local level.
The prime objective the of PACS programme is to strengthen the awareness and capabilities of poor people to demand and use their rights â€“ political, economic, social and human â€“ and services to improve their own lives. The programme seeks to achieve this through a network of Civil Society Organisation working for the poor.
The project designed by HelpAge India is to raise awareness amongst the older persons of the most backward districts of India on the rights and social welfare schemes that exist for them and to facilitate greater access of the benefits. The proposed project is implemented in partnership with local Civil Society Organisations.
Improve the awareness level and direct access of poor older persons to social security, food security and habitat security in 9 districts of 3 PACS states.
Advocacy for the concerns of the aged, both in the local government as well as at the district, state and national levels, and widen the agenda of ageing with other CSOs in PACS state.
The direct field intervention of the project will be in 900 villages of 9 districts in three states. The districts are from the list of 100 poorest districts of India. These districts are Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Gumla (Jharkhand), Betul, Mandala, Chindwara (Madhya Pradesh) and Banda, Unnao, Barabanki (Uttar Pradesh). 9 local NGOs would be our project partners in field intervention.
In addition about 90 local civil society organisations would be sensitized on ageing issues in all the six PACS states. Baseline surveys of villages, district hand books, participatory research studies, community mobilisation efforts and related documentation would be used to launch and carryout issue based advocacy at all levels â€“ village to national.
Womenâ€™s Group Learns to Fight for Rights
Veera village is located 45 km from Anjar, close to the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat. Ashapura Vridh Mahila Bachat Mandal (Ashapura Savings Association of Older Women) is a Self-Help Group formed in this village by HelpAge, under the post earthquake reconstruction project.
This group has 13 members. To start with, the attendance of members was very low and savings were irregular. Constant counselling and formal training for concept clarity and effective leadership helped them to understand the hidden benefits of being organized. Training of record keeping was more effective as it ensured their financial security.
The group was taken for an exposure visit to Dwarka where they met another womenâ€™s group working on rights-based issues. This visit supported HelpAgeâ€™s efforts to broaden the agenda of the group and encourage them to address issues other than savings and credit.
Their village is remote and basic facilities like drinking water, health, education etc., were lacking. Although there is a pipeline running through it, supply of water was very erratic. Constant drought had compounded matters and the women of Veera had to walk 5 to 10 km to fetch water in overhead pots. Neither the villagers nor the Sarpanch (village head) were bothered about their problem.
A Movement Begins
This issue was brought up in one their SHG meetings. Members were bit hesitant in the beginning but, remembering their experience during the exposure visit, they decided to give it a shot. They prepared an application with the help of a literate person of the village and each member put her thumb impression to it. This effort by an SHG of older women motivated others and soon the whole village signed up. The sarpanch (village chief) himself submitted the application to the authorities.
During a womenâ€™s meeting, Benaben, the president of this group, shared her experience with others. â€œThe district official was shocked and terrified by the confidence of our members. He requested us not to approach the block office and promised to solve our problem.
â€œWithin two days, two water tankers arrived in our village with drinking water, and since then have been coming regularly. Our water woes are now in the past.â€
She says the group members never believed they would be able to take such action. â€œToday, we have proved that if we are united and determined, we can achieve the expected result.â€
Health Insurance for Older People
As the collective voice of Indiaâ€™s grey population, HelpAge would like to see certain modifications in the health insurance sector to bring about parity for the elderly. We have made the following recommendations to the government:
Social Pension cum Health Insurance
At present social pensions are allocated at Rs 200 a month for older citizens below the poverty line. It is requested from the Government that an increased sum of Rs 50 per month be added towards health insurance and paid to GIC or NIC so that senior citizens in the lower economic strata can be covered for universal health insurance. This will help provide both social and health security for the poor elderly.
Health Insurance for other socio economic segments
Improve present Health Insurance Schemes as per the requirements of the senior citizens to offer whole life coverage and no bar on entry age.
Discuss with the private companies to work out realistically the expenditure involved in extending these services to older persons and then find ways of sharing that expenditure with others like state, family, company and the individual.
Introduce community based/ cooperative models of health care, where the members manage it by self-financing the facility.
A Medical Claim policy at a young age (before age 50) continues by yearly renewal. It is compulsorily terminated at age 80, after which no health cover insurance is provided. Thus the medical insurance cover is forcibly withdrawn at age 80 when it is required most.
Insurance Regulation and Development Authority (IRDA) may be asked to enforce a uniform policy on all Insurance Companies, particularly Government owned companies, to continue medical insurance for whole life at a commensurate premium.
The cut-off age of 55, after which no fresh medical insurance policy is provided is arbitrary and unjustified. It discriminates against older persons. Instructions need to be given by IRDA to the insurance companies to remove this bar.
There is no clarity or transparency in fixing the rates of premium on medical insurance policies. They are at times arbitrarily increased on basis of age or claim experience. There should be some rationale on fixing premiums. IRDA may be asked to look into the fixing of reasonable premiums for health insurance policies for older persons.
Community based/ cooperative modals of health care, where the members manage it by self-financing the facility should be looked into.
The Government controls four insurance companies (United Insurance Co., Oriental Insurance Co., The New India Assurance Co. & National Insurance Co.) which should be directed by Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. Their representatives may be encouraged to work for medical insurance policies for older persons.
Older Persons: Soft Targets for Criminals
Alarmed at the growing incidence of crime against the elderly across the country, HelpAge has been trying to mitigate the problem.
We compile figures from year to year, to study trends, and help the mass media focus on the issue.
We have been imparting training to Delhi Police functionaries who interact with the elderly on a day-to-day basis.
We have held registration drives to help the Police be aware of the numbers of vulnerable elderly.
We facilitate an annual face-to-face between representatives of older peopleâ€™s groups and the senior-most Police functionaries to help them understand each other better.
Some Recommendations Given by HelpAge to the Police
Initiate CBMs (Confidence building measures) for OP to develop trust & faith in you
Identify vulnerable colonies with proximity to slums
Identify and prioritise the very old
Improve patrolling in vulnerable colonies
Go to the people instead of waiting for them to come forward
Many elders are quietly suffering indignity at the hands of those who they taught to say their first words and take their first steps. It is shocking that the largest perpetrators of Elder Abuse are their own children.
According to a rough estimate, nearly 40 % of older people living with their families are reportedly facing abuse of one kind or another, but only 1 in 6 cases actually comes to light. To highlight what is a closeted and extremely complex phenomenon, HelpAge India marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Delhi today with a discussion and launch of a campaign to fight such abuse.
Currently, 11% of Indiaâ€™s elderly live alone or with non-relatives. By 2025, it is estimated that 25% of those over 60 and 40% of those over 75 are likely to be living alone. Even if they live together, the elderly are overwhelmed by the new concepts of time and space, and as per the response of the survey are still suffering from loneliness.
In 2004 HelpAge India conducted a survey on loneliness in later life, in Delhi and Mumbai, through questionnaires and telephonically. HelpAge interacted with 500 older people in the two metros, and found that loneliness and isolation are the scourges of too many old peopleâ€™s lives.
The responses were received primarily from men â€“ only 8% of the respondents were women. The survey threw up some startling facts.
12% (1 out of 8) older people said no one cares they exist.
13% feel trapped within their own homes.
21% feel more or less alone and socialise with very few people, including their own children.
The most severely isolated and lonely are people over 75, particularly older women, those who are widowed and those living alone.
HelpAge has mounted a high-profile campaign to put the spotlight on this issue. We also organise several events to help the elderly use their time gainfully. In the recent past, we have organised:
Dance workshops for the elderly.
Interactive seminars and workshops on issues like health and nutrition
Plays and other events to help them showcase their talents.
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