~By Sujit Bhar
The special and unique bond between parents and their children has been abused in several ways throughout civil society and throughout history. Laws have specifically been framed for child abuse, and this has been covered widely in the media. Acceptable norms have been laid down in courts of law across the globe and law enforcement has become adept at handling such issues.
However, when it comes to the abuse of parents by their children—grown up adults who want favours to be transferred in the form of property, money or otherwise—only recently have laws in India been formulated to address these transgressions. Yet the evil keeps growing.
On June 1, in the exclusive Salt Lake area of Kolkata, a couple in their 70s was thrashed by their son and daughter-in-law and left bleeding in their house. As per media reports, the elderly couple—Manoj K Pal and his wife Subrata—managed to escape and report it to the police. The police arrested the son and daughter-in-law—Souvanik (37) and Payel (35)—and charged them under various sections of the IPC, including attempt to murder.
It was a disgusting show of brawn by two youths against the aged, virtually defenceless parents, because the unemployed and practically worthless young couple wanted the father to officially hand over the entire three-storey house to them and the parents refused.
In his complaint to the police the father wrote: “They tried to strangle us. When we resisted, they hit us and we started bleeding. They even locked us up in the house after that.” Somehow, they escaped and went to the police.
The twist in the tale was that it was the parents who bailed out the son and daughter-in-law, not being able to tolerate their pain in a thana lock-up. In an affidavit before the magistrate, the father wrote: “They have a three-month-old baby. The child and parents would suffer if they are behind bars. After all, he is my son. I cannot see him suffer.”
Not considering the last part of the story, which in itself was unique, there has to be a method by which unemployed (hence non-earning), yet abusive progeny can be dealt with strictly by law.
Police have started a case and charged the two under various IPC sections, including attempt to murder.
With such instances growing in number, the central government’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment enacted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. It is an act that aims at effective provision for the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens.
It is aimed at making grown up children and heirs legally obligated to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents, through a monthly allowance. The Act also aims at a simple, speedy and inexpensive method of protection of life and property of the older persons.
The Act has noted that the disintegration of the joint family system meant that elders in or away from nuclear families also need protection. With hardly any social or government protection available to the elders (old age pension at this point is a piddly Rs 200) this could have been a way out for the aged to not only guarantee their protection against abusive offspring such as the Kolkata youths, but also have for themselves a sum of money that they can use for essentials that they cannot afford after retirement.
The Act lays out loud claims of how Indian society traditionally has cared for its elders. Probably it is talking about prehistoric times, because the current social fabric is completely against geriatric care. The government does not even acknowledge the need for geriatric care being a social necessity.
One has to just think of this abusive young couple of Kolkata to realise the shortcomings of the enactment. Neither of the two young people in the Kolkata incident is employed. They cannot provide for themselves, be it through providence or their sheer stupidity. How would they be expected to provide for their parents? Such worthless progeny cannot be depended upon to provide the shelter and sustenance.
It may be recalled that the first case under the Act was in November 2011, filed by an 84-year-old man, Siluvai, and his wife Arulammal (80) of Tuticorin. It was a similar case, where the son and daughter-in-law were hauled up for neglect. They had also taken away their two homes and gold jewellery.
The government must act with compassion and must act fast.