Dil Bahadur Magar, 70, of Ramechhap district last Friday morning got on a passenger bus for Putalisadak from Koteshwor. He could not get a reserved seat for senior citizens in the packed bus, as the reserved one was occupied by a young man.
Despite repeated requests by the bus conductor, the man did not vacate the seat for the elderly man. Upon reaching Anamnagar, around two kilometers away from his destination, the conductor asked Magar for transport fare. He handed the conductor only Rs 10 in transport fare requesting for a 50 percent discount on transport fare as provisioned by the constitution. But the bus conductor refused and asked for a full fare saying that he was unaware about the discount.
Similarly, after falling ill, Harka Bahadur Raut, 66, got a health test in a private hospital. He was diagnosed with a throat problem, and required surgery. He requested a 50 percent concession on treatment costs for elderly people. But, the hospital refused.
Laws and rules relating to elderly people have been made. But, their implementation is weak. According to the Senior Citizens Act, 2063, the concerned owners or operators of public motor vehicles as may be specified by the Government of Nepal by publishing a public notice shall reserve at least two seats in such vehicles for the senior citizens and give them a concession of at least fifty percent on the passenger fare.
Each organisation providing health services shall provide health services by giving priority to the senior citizens. Such organisations providing health services as may be specified by the Government of Nepal shall give concession of at least fifty percent on the fees chargeable on the treatment in such organizations of senior citizens in the specified number.
It shall be the duty of all to provide necessary services, facilities and assistance to the senior citizens in any public vehicles, public undertakings, medical services, religious and public places. Other organisations providing public services including drinking water, electricity and telephone shall give priority to the senior citizens while providing such services. The Government of Nepal may, by a notification in the Nepal Gazette, provide the senior citizens with other facilities and concessions from time to time, in addition to the aforementioned facilities and concessions.
However, it has been around 17 years since the introduction of the Act, its implementation has not been effective. Outgoing President of the National Senior Citizens Federation (NASCIF) Madandas Shrestha rued the weak implementation of the provisions of 50 percent discount on transport fare and treatment costs for elderly people.
“The provision of 50 percent concession on transport fare for elderly people has not been implemented whatsoever. Some government hospitals have provided a 50 percent discount on treatment costs. But the private health facilities have failed to do so,” he said. The government should be held responsible in implementing the provisions, he asserted.
It is a matter of sadness and negligence on the part of the government to fail to implement the provisions, said the NASCIF President Chhatra Bahadur Pradhan. “Act is the state’s commitment. But the act has not been implemented 17 years into its formulation. It seems the state has not been serious about the matter,” he accused.
The government should specify public vehicles where elderly people get 50 percent discount on transport fare, he said. “Forget the implementation of the provision to provide 50 percent concession on treatment costs for elderly people. Hospitals do not provide cetamol to them free of cost,” he said.
On 7 April, 2011, the Supreme Court issued a verdict in the name of the government ordering it for the implementation of the provisions. According to Article 41 of Part 3, the senior citizens shall have the right to special protection and social security from the state.
Similarly, it accords priority to the indigent within all sexes, regions and communities in the provision of social security and social justice under the heading of policies relating to social justice and inclusion in Article 51 (J) (12) of Part 4. Senior citizens have for long demanded the implementation of the provision of 50 percent concession on transport fare and treatment costs in hospitals. They have also demanded an increment in social security allowance they are entitled to. Their other demands include the formulation of laws that prevent children from claiming their paternal properties, the transfer of paternal properties to children until death of parents and from filing any cases against parents under any pretexts. Chairperson of the Agraj Samaj, Maha Prasad Parajuli, demanded that the state honours senior citizens, and they be provided with services and facilities due to them.
The Senior Citizens Act defines people above 60 years of age as senior citizens. It shall be the duty of each family member to maintain and care for the senior citizen according to the economic status and prestige of the member, states the Act.
However, on the contrary, in many cases, senior citizens are forced to live in old age homes without proper care and negligence on part of their family members. In 2017, the global population made up 13 percent elderly people above the age of 60 years. Globally, the populace of elderly people is increasing three percent annually. Moreover, the figure is expected to increase to around 21 percent by 2050 leading to the population of elderly people more than the total population of children below 10. The current life expectancy for Nepal in 2023 is 71.74 years, a 0.4 percent increment from 2022. The number of elderly people increased over the years. The number of senior citizens in 2038 BS increased to 5.71 percent from 5.61 in 2028 BS, according to the national census, which is carried out every 10 years. Likewise, the future surged to 6.50 percent in 2058 BS from 5.81 in 2048 BS. It further increased to 10. 15 percent in 2078 BS from 8.13 in 2068 BS. The United Nations has in 1991 endorsed the proposal to accord priorities to security, freedom, participation, care, self-satisfaction and honour to senior citizens.
The UN General Assembly (Resolution 46/91) adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons on 16 December 1991. There are 18 principles, which are grouped under five themes: independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment and dignity relating to senior citizens. The government must hear and address demands of senior citizens by making related laws, said Parajuli.