A Growing concern

Apr 26, 2012, 07:51 IST | Sudeshna Chowdhury

Given the recent spate of attacks on senior citizens, there is an increasing sense of insecurity amongst the elderly. Caution should be the watchword, suggest support groups

The sensational murder of 62-year-old Arunkumar Tiku in his Oshiwara flat, was followed by shocking revelations from Vijay Palande, the mastermind in the murder. Palande and the other accused prepared a masterplan to befriend, deceive and then kill Tiku’s son. This, for a flat in Oshiwara and properties worth Rs 50 crore.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

In another case, an 80-year-old man was murdered by his nephew and his friend, reportedly over some property dispute, while he was asleep at his residence in Chembur . With senior citizens becoming easy targets, a sense of insecurity and panic has gripped the elderly in Mumbai.
Mani Patel (67), an activist from St Martin’s Road, Bandra feels that the city is becoming unsafe for senior citizens. “Senior citizens are vulnerable and therefore easy targets. Ideally, every senior citizen should register oneself with the police. But many are afraid to do so, as there is a huge trust deficit between the police and senior citizens.

Concerns: Senior Citizens' Counselling centre at Lamington Road 

Hence, people are all the more hesitant to approach the police as they believe that giving out information might put them at greater risk,” said Patel, who emphasizes that given the recent spate of attacks on senior citizens, they should exercise caution and trust no one. “It’s dangerous if you are alone and you are a senior citizen. Keep your property details to yourself and don’t share it with too many people. Personally, I have been very careful when it comes to money. I don’t disclose my investments and assets’ details even to close family members,” said Patel. However, “good neighbours are always an asset. I believe that neighbours can play a great role in ensuring the safety of senior citizens by simply being in touch with them. Also residents’ associations should keep in touch with the older people residing in the society,” added Patel.

Trouble: Stock analyst Gautam Vora has been arrested and produced in Killa court for allegedly helping Vijay Palande, a key accused in the murder of Delhi-based businessman Arunkumar Tiku, after his escape from police custody

Niranjan Parikh (74) from Nana Chowk concurs, “Good and responsible neighbours who are concerned about each other, can ensure that senior citizens in the area are safe. Another important factor is the location of the building. It is dangerous, if he/she is living in a building, which is somewhat isolated. In such a scenario, a CCTV camera should be installed to keep a check on people entering/leaving the building.”

Chaos: Cameraman and journalists gathered at Andheri court when the three accused in the murder of Delhi-based businessman Arunkumar Tiku were produced before the court

Sheilu Sreenivasan, Founder President of Dignity Foundation, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that works for the welfare of senior citizens believes that police surveillance and police assistance alone can tackle this problem. “We have all the required laws in place. Unless the police take both proactive measures as well as responsive action when a complaint is filed, the situation will not change. Counselling senior citizens is another aspect. If you don’t allow the outside world to abuse you, that itself is half the battle won,” said Sreenivasan. A record of senior citizens living in a given area should be maintained. “Collecting information on where they live, how alone they are, who are the usual people who visit them, can greatly help address various concerns ,” rues Sreenivasan. Proactive intervention too can be of great help. “Police assistance depends on the instructions obtained from the Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) of the region under whom a Police Inspector works. It is he who has to be active to address issues at a local level,” added Sreenivasan.

Many NGOs too are running awareness programmes in different areas, to address concerns faced by senior citizens. Prakash N Borgaonkar, Director, HelpAge India said, “We visit many Senior Citizens’ Associations (SCAs) in Mumbai. We tell them about various government schemes which are in place for them. We make them aware of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill; investment options, insurance schemes, etcetera.” He added, “Most senior citizens are living alone and are perceived as easy targets. We always tell them to verify/check before recruiting servants. They must get their servants registered with the police.” Sreenivasan says that many domestic servants are reluctant to go for police registration. “When domestic help is hard to come by, imposing this condition might result in losing them. So many elders do not go in for registering. Some housing societies have imposed the rule of registering and that makes it easy for elders.” In space-starved Mumbai, senior citizens having some sort of property or assets are the main targets. Said Sreenivasan, “We get something like 30 calls per day and out of those 90 per cent are related to property matters.” Borgaonkar added, “Almost 50 per cent of complaints we receive are related to harassment due to property issues. However in case of any problem—be it a property issue or harassment, it is advisable that senior citizen seek help from NGOs or support groups before it is too late.” 

HelpAge India

Senior Citizen Helpline nos

1090 & 103
Mumbai Police Helpline nos

Dignity Foundation (Between 10 am and 6pm, Monday to Friday) 

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