The notion that a government has the right to dictate how we approach our senior parents is likely to be foreign one to most people in the west.
Yet before we become too flummoxed by this idea, it is important to acknowledge that different cultures and approaches will always have something to teach us.
Most people in the west can agree that when it comes to community, family and support we may not be the forerunners.
According to the WHO, in the block of Southeast Asia, India’s suicide percentage is 16.3 per 100,000 while Europe’s highest rate is 31.9 per 100,000.
While legislating how families must look after their elderly may not be the right way for western society to go, we are situationally in a place to listen.
Academics and experts have been writing on the topics of the west’s individualism and approach to family for decades and if the PHDs are to be acknowledged, there is room to grow.
From Vogue to the New York Times, the Huffington Post and The Seattle Times, loneliness and vulnerability, particularly for our elderly have been making headlines. The west, in how it approaches family, responsibility and care is in a position to listen and learn.
From October 2 2018, in the eastern province of Assam in India, a civil employee of the Assam government will be liable to a fine of 10 to 15% of his or her monthly gross salary if found to be negligent in their care of their dependent senior parents or physically challenged siblings.
The health and finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma commented on Friday, “This is to ensure that they [the employees] look after their parents, who do not have any source of income and are dependent on them. The employee should also take care of a physically challenged sibling, who is also dependent on him.”
The legislation that has been enacted is called the Assam Employees Parental Responsibility Norms for Accountability Monitoring Act.
The law and the rules it stipulates, called the Pranam Act in short, were approved by cabinet last Monday and Minister Sarma has said that now since all legislative and administrative obstacles have been addressed, the law will be enforced come October this year.
The law dictates that if an employee is found to have contravened the rules of adequate care, as laid out by the Pranam Act, they will be docked 10% of their monthly income, which will then be channeled to their dependent parents.
If they have been found to be negligent of a physically challenged and dependent sibling the percentage goes up to 15%.
The legislation lays out the situation of the parents and steps that must be taken in order to make a claim. Either parents must be wholly dependent and not have access to their own sources of wealth or income, including a pension.
They must prove the claim is for their own basic needs and that they have need of financial support. The employee (the child of the senior parents) has an avenue to rebut the claim before a designated officer.
If either party is still not satisfied their is a further opportunity for two further appeals with an appellate authority and Pranam commission, respectively. It is after these steps that the decision is final.
Regardless of where one may stand on this issue, the facts remain. The elderly in our world, country and communities are arguably far more vulnerable than those of us who are in the work force and able to earn an income.
Not only do we have, for the most part, access to resources, work and social communities but the basic ability to move without pain, defend ourselves against exploitation and live a certain quality of life.
The older people get, the ability to ensure the former is likely to dissipate. And if we are to be honest, none of us are getting any younger.
We must be open to researched, trailed and in-depth policy when it comes to the most vulnerable in our society.
Come October we have the opportunity to see how the Pranam Act fairs for all involved and to learn from its measures.