24th June 2013
The case of the successful merchant Anantarama Setty (91) who was found chained to a water tank on the roof by his son and daughter-in-law is not an exception. A 2013 survey by non-governmental organisation Help Age India in 24 cities across India shows daily abuse of 35 per cent of elders in tier-I cities, which worsens to 39 per cent in smaller tier-II cities.
These, however, are just the cases that are reported. A shocking 16.19 per cent of those surveyed in Bikaner and 13.67 per cent in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam said they had been slapped and beaten mercilessly, but almost all of them had not reported it to anyone.
Overall, 70 per cent of elders who have faced physical abuse don’t talk about it. Those in Srinagar and Bikaner register a 100 per cent silence. Help Age India’s state head Rekha Murthy told Express: “Among those who faced abuse, 37 per cent from tier-I cities made an attempt to report the matter, while 74 per cent from tier-II cities did not bother to report. Maintaining confidentiality of a family matter is the major reason behind not reporting abuse (31 per cent) followed by fear of retaliation (23 per cent). One fifth elderly (21 per cent) did not report as they did not know how to deal with the problem.”
In the tier-I cities of New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkata, daughter-in-laws are the main perpetrators of abuse (39 per cent). In tier-II cities that include Mangalore and Madurai, sons (40 per cent) are the main culprit. However, Rekha Murthy pointed to a more disturbing trend: “In tier-II cities, 17 per cent of elders have been abused by their daughters.” Bangalore was not surveyed this year, though it stood at 7th on the list in 2012, with 37.14 per cent abuse of elders. Mangalore which was surveyed this time stands 13th on this list.
Madurai topped the list with 63 per cent abuse, closely followed by Kanpur (60 per cent). In the South, Hyderabad has the highest rate of elder abuse (37.50 per cent) while Chennai has the lowest (9.64 per cent).
Radha Murthy, managing trustee of Nightingales Medical Trust said that most cases of abuse are emotional in nature and mostly related to inter-familial maladjustment. “Senior citizens are unable to change their lifestyle to suit that of other family members. When sons, daughters, daughters-in-laws and grandchildren don’t respect the elders or exclude their opinions, it is still counted as abuse.” She added that 57 per cent of complaints are inter-familial issues on property and adjustment problems.
In the 2012 survey, Bangalore’s elderly helpline 1090 had received the maximum distress calls (162) after Hyderabad (231). M J Surendrakumar, president, Federation of Senior Citizens Forums of Karnataka said that the survey is representative of the pathetic condition of senior citizens who are abused by their own families and are often deserted and forced to look for shelters and homes.
“Elders are being abused in all realms of society. Sons and their wives together treat the parent badly. The same treatment is meted out by grandchildren who tend to follow the parents’ behaviour,” he rued.
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