Old and infirm: Poverty drives elderly to do hard physical labour

By: Maitreyee Boruah
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Bengaluru, June 10: At 75, when most women spend their days telling stories to their grandchildren, Bhanu Devi works as a washerwoman at various houses in Marathahalli, Bengaluru. After finishing her household chores, Bhanu leaves for her work at 7 am every day.

She works almost eight hours a day and earns around Rs 8,000 a month. The frail looking woman, who always wears a smile, says she has no other option but to work. "I have no children. My husband died five years ago. I have come from Bihar to Bengaluru some four years ago to stay with my nephew. My nephew works as a construction labourer. He has a wife and one girl child to look after. We are poor people, if I don't work I have to go hungry," Bhanu tells.

senior citizen

Bhanu is not alone in her plight-old and infirm-but forced to work.

According to 2011 Census data released recently, more than 1.17 crore people over the age of 70 are still working in India. "A majority of the elderly workers are full-time employees. Of these, 25 lakh are over the age of 80," the report adds.

Experts say elderly people in India are forced to work because of the absence of social security. Moreover, rampant poverty in rural areas drives senior citizens to work as unskilled labourers. Most of the old people in rural areas are engaged in hard physical labour.

"Although India will be the youngest country in the world by 2020 with a median age of 29 years, the number of elderly people is likely to increase significantly," says the 2014 State of Elderly in India report released by the non-profit organization, HelpAge India.

senior citizens

"By 2021, the elderly in the country will number 143 million. The increase in life expectancy over the years has resulted in an increase in the population of the elderly. While the overall population of India will grow by 40% between 2006 and 2050, the population of those aged 60 and above will increase by 270%," added the report.

Experts say unless and until government does not come up with a proper policy to deal with the senior citizens, a majority of them are staring at a bleak future.

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