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Sindh first to pass senior citizens welfare bill

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Law envisages benefits, concessions and discounts on healthcare, travel, lodging, essential commodities etc

Karachi 

The Sindh Assembly unanimously passed into law the Sindh Senior Citizens’ Welfare Bill, 2014 on Friday, making the province the first one to adopt a law for the elderly.

However, some of the privileges envisaged in the bill appear to be too good to be true when it comes to actually implementing the law.

Parliamentary affairs minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro moved the bill for its clause-by-clause consideration by the house on the basis of report of the standing committee on social welfare, which examined it in detail. 

The bill adopted by the House defined a senior citizen as a person aged 60 years or above and a permanent resident of the province. 

The section 3(1) of the bill envisages establishing a senior citizens council with provincial minister for social welfare as its chairperson. Other members of the committee include two members of assembly nominated by the speaker; secretaries of the finance, health, local government, zakat and usher, transport, food and agriculture departments; two members from well-known non-governmental organisations – one engaged in the welfare of the senior citizens and other working for human rights; two senior citizens from the civil society one of whom should be a retired government officer and the other businessperson; one retired sessions judge or additional sessions judge; and the secretary of the social welfare department will act as the secretary of the body.

One of the functions of the council as defined in the bill is to formulate policies for the welfare and improving the well-being of senior citizens and to issue the senior citizens cards, which would be called Azadi Cards by providing essential services and benefits to senior citizens.

The council will also establish senior citizens’ lodging establishments and homes for their physical, mental, emotional, social, and economic well-being.

The council will also work to provide free geriatric, medical, and health services with free medicines for senior citizens as prescribed by respective medical officers from government dispensaries, hospitals, medical centres and 25 percent concession on all private hospitals and clinics. 

The council will provide assistance to retired senior citizens in receiving their pension-related benefits and other dues from the departments and organisations concerned.

The council will ensure 50 percent concession for senior citizens in road transport fares and 25 percent discount on purchase of goods, medicines, and essential commodities.

The draft of the bill also states that 50 percent concession will be provided to senior citizens on both public and private within and inter-city transport. Besides, a concession will be provided on the tickets of Railways and PIA on filling prescribed forms.

The bill also envisages concession of 25 percent on drugs and medicines for the treatment of age-related illnesses of senior citizens.

The council will also ensure the provision of 25 percent discount at recreation centres, cinemas, theatres, visiting places including hostels, motels, resorts, restaurants, food points and lodging establishments.

It also ensures provision of free services for funeral and burial on the death of a senior citizen by the local council.

It also provides exemption to senior citizen from training fee for socio-economic programmes.

The section 8 (1) of the bill envisages establishment of old age homes in the province by the government in these words, “The government shall establish and maintain such number of old age homes at accessible places, as it many deem necessary, in a phased manner, beginning with at least one in each district to accommodate indigent senior citizens in such homes.”

The sub-section-2 of same section-8 reads: “The government shall prescribe scheme for management of old age homes including the standards and various types of services to be provided by them which are necessary for medical care and means of entertainment to inhabitants of such homes.”

The Sindh Assembly also unanimously passed into law the Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Bill, 2015 for the abolishment of the practice of bonded labour in the province.

The bill was adopted on basis of the report on the proposed legislation by assembly’s standing committee on human resources.

The bill provides that whoever, after the commencement of this act, compels any person to render any bonded labour, would be punishable with imprisonment for a term which should not be less than two years and not more than five years, and a fine which should not be less than Rs100,000.

The bill further reads: “Whoever enforces, after the commencement of this Act, any custom, tradition, practice, contract, agreement or other instrument, by virtue of which any person or any member of his family is required to render any service under the bounded labour system, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than  two years and not more than five years or with fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees, or with both; and out of the fine, if recovered, payment shall be made to the bonded labourer at the rate of not less than two hundred sixty nine rupees for each day for which bonded labour was extracted from him”. 

The Sindh Assembly also unanimously passed the Sindh Employees’ Old-Age Benefits (Amendment) Bill-2016.

Earlier, a few female lawmakers of the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and all female legislators the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in protest against what they had described as an “inappropriate gesture” by minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro when he was engaged in a heated argument with PML-F’s Nusrat Seher Abbasi during the question hour of the assembly related to the human rights department.

MQM’s Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hassan, the leader of the opposition in the House, complained that the National Database and Registration Authority was causing undue hardships to the citizens of Karachi when they visited NADRA centres for revalidating their identity cards.

He said Nadra officers assigned at the counters to deal with public in various instances were asking applicants for some completely irrelevant documents about the citizenship status of their grandfathers or grandmothers.

He said NADRA should stop such discriminatory attitude against the citizens of Karachi and those in other urban parts of the province.

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