CHENNAI: These senior citizens work everyday to help make our lives easier. Yet, their lives are far from comfortable and they simply can’t afford to retire. Worse, they lack dignity of life as the society by and large treats them like dirt, pointed out speakers at a panel discussion on ‘The elderly poor and Chennai’s economy’ organised by Centre for Law, Policy and Human Rights Studies here on Wednesday.
“We all rely on the services of the elderly poor.
They actually make our lives easier by their work.
They are central to our economy. From agricultural fields to the roadside shops selling grocery, the elderly poor do contribute in a big way,” said Penny Vera-Sanso, lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London.
But poor senior citizens are often neglected here,Noting that 10 per cent of the city’s population is over 60 years of age, V Suresh, director of Centre for Law, Policy and Human Rights Studies said: “they don’t need our compassion. They are entitled to a decent living.” Most of the elderly poor in the city are street vendors or workers in the unorganised sector. Instead of welfare schemes that make them dependent on the government, the State should ensure dignity of labour by providing basic resources for a decent living. “The civic bodies, the police and the media criminalise hawkers. Corporation officials often take away all their possessions, which are crucial for their livelihood,” alleged social activist Vanessa Peter. Raj Cherubal of Chennai City Connect said that instead of treating hawkers as criminals, they should be seen as entrepreneurs.
Refuting the arguments that the CMDA had failed to address the concerns of the elderly poor in the Second Master Plan, Vikram Kapur, CMDA member-secretary, said it was beyond the scope of the document.
Such things come under the ambit of the local bodies.