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Development without Compassion for the Aged?

By: Shaji George Kochuthara

The road from the place where I live (Dairy Circle, Bangalore 560029) to the next junction towards south, namely, Check Post, is about two kilometres. Within these two kilometres, there is Christ University with more than 12000 students and a few schools where thousands of students study. Besides, there are a number of shopping malls frequented by tens of thousands of people every day, Bangalore Dairy and a few Software companies where thousands of people work. Moreover, the whole area of the city is densely populated. The road is part of the national highway from Bangalore to Tamil Nadu. The road is busy throughout day and night. But within these two kilometres, there is not a single road crossing for the pedestrians. There is one traffic signal in between, but without any pedestrian crossing. There are a couple of pedestrian crossings in between, but no vehicles stop if a pedestrian steps in. This, in fact, is not the condition of this road alone, but of most of the roads in the city.

Even young people find it difficult to cross the road; often we have to wait for minutes and run within the gaps we get just for seconds. I have often thought how difficult it is for old people to cross the road; and have often found old people waiting helplessly.

Mainly due to improved healthcare and nutritional facilities, life-span in India has increased; the number of old people has grown considerably in the last couple of decades. Traditionally in the Indian societies, old parents used to live with one of their sons, usually with the youngest son and his family. Now an increasing number of old people no more live with their children. The city is not adapted to accommodate old people. I have described how difficult it is for pedestrians to cross the road. Similarly, most of the footpaths are broken, or there is no footpath at all even for main roads. Many government offices function in the third or fourth floor of the buildings and there is no lift for many such buildings. Similarly, city development has taken away small parks and squares where people could spend time leisurely. They are substituted by shopping malls, restaurants and pubs, frequented mainly by the young and the rich. These are conditions that affect all people, but old people are affected by these more. The old people cannot lead a dignified and independent life in the city. Either they have to depend completely on others, or they have to confine themselves to their homes. The condition is worse for old people who are not rich.

Often I feel that the Indian society is becoming more and more insensitive to the old people. Development projects ignore their needs. If you want to live here? Be young and be rich!

Lack of compassion towards the aged, the sin condemned by the Fourth Commandment, reappears in different forms even today. When we address this issue, often it is about the children’s responsibility to take care of their parents in the old age. Surely, it has to be done. However, as a society we have to become more sensitive to the needs of the aged. The Fourth Commandment is above all about “honouring” the aged, ensuring them of a dignified life. The society has to become more aware of the rights of the aged to lead a dignified life.