KATHMANDU, April 20: Chandrakumari Khatri, 68, loves to travel. But, it has been almost three years that she has not moved out of the boundary of the old age home where she has been living for many years.
Travelling, basically to religious shrines, no less excites 67-year-old Dilkumari Shrestha, who lives in the same ward as Khatri at ´Aama ghar´ in Ravibhawan, Kalimati.
But she has no way other than to console herself by just strolling around the premises. The reason -- both Khatri and Shrestha have very little savings to manage for outings.
The government granted 50 percent concessions in public transport fares for the elderly in 2009. In order to better ensure old people´s rights and their dignity, the government had passed a related bill as well. However, quite surprisingly, not only the elderly people, but even the old age homes are still unaware about the concessions and facilities.
“The mothers are so much bored to stay at home all the time. They wish they could go for outing sometimes. And some wish to visit certain temples before they die,” said Dilshova Shrestha the founder and sole caretaker of dozens of elderly at the old age home.
“But the financial burden it would incur is something I am scared of. The students are given concessions in transport fares. Why doesn´t the government provide concessions to the elderly,” she questions, totally unaware of the fact that the provision is already in place two years now.
Last year Shrestha had planned to take the elderly people to Manakamana temple. She tried to find some kind hearted drivers who would lower the rates for the elderly, but to no avail. “And then I decided to postpone the trip.” She said she would arrange such visits for the elderly if the law regarding fare concessions is enforced.
Let alone Shrestha, chairperson of the Federaton of Association of Elderly People, a network of more than 40 organizations, Dr Lila KC, complains, "Despite much lobbying and advocacy, the government has failed to introduce minimum facilities for the elderly in order to ensure their dignity. For instance, a certain percentage fare concession to the old could make a lot of difference to them, but there is no such provision,” she noted.
Under Secretary at the Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare Surya Prasad Shrestha said there already is a provision in place that provides 50 percent discount in transport fares to people above 70 years and widows above 60 years.
However, he avoided answering why the target group remains unaware about the provision and lack of government initiative to implement the provision. “We will circulate necessary guidelines to those concerned so that elderly people benefit from the provision,” he said reluctantly over phone.
On the other hand, it is hard to say when the thousands of the elderly will continue to be deprived of the rights and facilities that they undoubtedly deserve.