As India greys, govt plans midday meals, startups to help the elderly | India News


NEW DELHI: Pictures and reports of down and out elders being left on the highway by the Indore municipality shocked the nation, but the struggle for existence is a daily fight for many of India’s seniors. Recognising their plight, the government is set to launch a mid-day meal scheme for indigent elders, support start ups prepared to work for welfare of the old and self help groups will offer reskilling for seniors as part of a comprehensive outreach.
A fast growing elderly population expected to touch 300 million by 2050 has prompted the government to draw a roadmap for five years setting targets for existing schemes and planning new ones including a “Poshan Abhiyan for Elderly.” Malnourished elderly, mostly destitutes, who are not in any old age home will be identified and provided a hot cooked meal daily. To begin with the meals will be offered in 2,000 panchayats and 200 municiplaities.
A modest start will see hot cooked meals provided to 55,000 identified elderly every day from centres equipped with a capacity for catering to 25 persons daily. The outreach will be scaled up each year to reach 2,75,000 elderly persons through 10,000 gram panchayats and 1,000 municipalities by 2024-25. The plans were approved by the inter ministerial committee (IMC) for the senior citizens welfare fund (SCWF) chaired by secretary for social justice and empowerment R Subrahmanyam on February 4. “The scheme will focus on procuring locally available healthy food material and serving hot-cooked meals mid-day,” Subrahmanyam told TOI. The ministry will write to states to identify the panchayats and municipalities.
As per the approved plan the gram panchayat/municipality would be the implementing agency and will be tasked to identify the elders. The cost per day is Rs 20. An expenditure of Rs 39.6 crore will be incurred and priority given to aspirational districts and the scheme shall be run only in those gram panchayats where there is no old age home.
The IMC meeting attended by senior functionaries from the ministries of social justice, health and family welfare, housing and urban affairs and the departments of economic affairs and financial services also approved a plan for promoting the silver economy through equity participation in “Start Ups” for elderly care.
“Under this plan equity support will be provided to out-of-the-box and innovative start-ups that have come up for providing products, processes and services for the welfare of the elderly. The selection of the start-ups will be steered by the National Institute of Social Defence,” Subrahmanyam explained. The fund will be provided as equity, subject to government investment not exceeding 49% of the total equity of the firm. An expenditure of Rs 20 cr from SCWF for 2021-22 on this programme.
Under the livelihood and skilling initiatives for senior citizens, it has been decided to set-up 5000 self help groups (Action Groups Aimed at Social Reconstruction) to cover 1.25 lakh beneficiaries in 2021-22. These groups will provide the elderly a platform to share their time constructively for carrying out activities that may result in marketable products. This is proposed to be scaled up to 40,000 AGRASR groups covering 10 lakh beneficiaries by 2025-26.
The ministry of social justice has also decided to set in motion the process of setting up an employment exchange for senior citizens under the banner “Senior Able Citizens for Re-Employment in Dignity”.


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