From March 2016, Maharashtra Government has decided to lower the age of attaining senior citizenship from 65 years to 60 years in order to bring it on par with the central government. This decision is being welcomed by many senior citizens and this is expected to benefit about 40 lakhs people in the state. Minister for Social Justice Rajkumar Badole announced in the state Legislative Assembly this month.
When Afternoon Voice spoke to some of senior citizens, they welcomed the move of the state government.
Mrs. Purnima Mistry, a housewife who was not in senior citizen category but after the decision falls in it, said, “This announcement will benefit nearly 40 lakhs citizens like us. After retirement, one should directly be declares as senior citizen because 65 years is too late to be called as a senior citizen. Now, problems in life begin at the age of 60. They need personal attention and aid at 60 years. This is good decision by the state government.
Well, during a discussion on the calling attention motion brought by Congress Leader and LoP in Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and others, members cutting across party lines demanded that the state government should lower the age of citizenship to 60 years, on par with the Central Government.
All those at the age of 60, will get all benefits and facilities as decided by Government. Such as Reservation of two seats for senior citizens in front row of the buses of the State Road Transport Undertakings. Some state governments are giving fare concession to senior citizens in the State Transport buses whereas at many places bus are build for senior citizen friendly in which elder can board and alight conveniently. Free or concessional passes for them are provided in BEST busses also.
Indian Railways provide 30 per cent concession in all classes and trains including Rajdhani/Shatabadi trains for both males and females aged 60 years and above. Indian Railways also have the facility of separate counters for Senior Citizens for purchase/booking/cancellation of tickets. Wheel Chairs for use of older persons are available at all junctions, District Headquarters and other important stations for the convenience of needy persons including the older persons.
Indian Airlines is providing 50 per cent Senior Citizen Discount on Normal Economy Class fare for all domestic flights to Indian senior citizens who have completed the age of 65 years in the case of male senior citizens and 63 years in the case of female senior citizens subject to certain conditions. Now, they can be benefitted at 60 years. Air India is offering discount of 55% to senior citizens of 60 plus on flights to USA, UK and Europe on economy class. Further, Air India has now decided to reduce the age of 60 plus for discount on their domestic routes as well with immediate effect. For Identity card, 2 passport sized photographs have to be submitted along with the form.
MTNL in NCR offers a discount of 25 per cent on Rs. 250 per month Plan. Age limit is 65 years or above. Separate queues for elderly persons in hospitals for registration and clinical examination are there.
For senior citizens the exemption limit is Rs. 2,50,000 up to which senior citizen pays no income-tax at all. The benefit of higher exemption limit for a senior citizen is available only when a person has completed 60 years of age. The senior citizen should also take full advantage of section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961 whereby deduction up to Rs. 1.00 lakh is available for investment by way of insurance premium, repayment of the housing loan or investment in Senior Citizens Savings Scheme as well as in the Bank Fixed Deposit.
Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal Ministry responsible for welfare of the Senior Citizens. It has announced the National Policy on Older Persons which seeks to assure older persons that their concerns are national concerns and they will not live unprotected, ignored and marginalized. The National Policy aims to strengthen their legitimate place in the society and to help older people to live the last phase of their life with purpose, dignity and peace. The National Policy on Older Persons inter alia visualizes support for financial security, health care and nutrition, shelter, emphasis upon education, training and information needs, provision of appropriate concessions, rebates and discounts etc. to Senior Citizens and special attention to protect and strengthen their legal rights such as to safeguard their life and property. The National Policy on Older Persons confers the status of senior citizen to a person who has attained the age of 60 years. Under the National Old Age Pension Scheme, Central Assistance of Rs. 75/- p.m. is granted to destitute older persons above 65 years.
Welcoming the state government decision,
Mrs. Suchita Rao, a retired Professor said, “Old age consists of ages nearing or surpassing the average life span of human beings. Many people develop disabilities in later life related to the wear and tear of ageing (e.g. arthritis) or the onset of a chronic disease, (e.g. lung cancer, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease) or a degenerative illness (e.g. dementia). Body gets weak and mind starts worrying, at this age if senior citizens get any support from government proves to be boon for them.”
T Gajanan, another retired professor said, “This policy by the State governments for the welfare of older persons in a proactive manner. It defines ‘senior citizen’ as a person who attended a 60 years or above and strives to ensure their well-being and improve the quality of their lives by providing specific facilities, concessions, relief and services and helping them cope with problems associated with the old age. I really appreciate this move of the state government.”