Elderly insecure in former pensioners’ paradise

January 28th, 2009 - 11:06 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Jan 28 (IANS) The phone that rings when you dial 1090 has hardly stopped ringing in the past nearly 20 days. It is the Elders Helpline, a service to address issues concerning senior citizens of Bangalore. They have been shaken now by five murders since Jan 9.In this city once hailed as the pensioners’ paradise, five people including three senior citizens were murdered in a span of 11 days in their homes in Jayanagar, earlier a well-regarded residential neighbourhood six km south of the city centre.

A.S. Venkata Rangan, 79, a retired deputy accountant general, and his wife Vasantha, 72, were found dead with their throats slit in their Jayanagar home on Jan 9. The couple lived on their own, with one son settled in Mysore, another in the US and two daughters in different parts of Bangalore with their families.

Eleven days later, Sathyabhama, 84, a former school teacher, her daughter Vijayalakshmi, 55, and daughter-in-law Jayashree, 45, were murdered in their residence, only a km away from the Rangans’ house.

Police have not made any arrest in either case, though they are questioning a number of people.

Reports of murder of the elderly heighten the sense of insecurity among senior citizens, say counsellors working with the helpline.

“Since the murder of the Rangan couple the helpline has received around 450 calls,” the counsellors said. The helpline is run jointly by Bangalore City Police and Nightingales Medical Trust, a city-based NGO working for senior citizens.

“Most of the callers were eager to equip themselves better for personal safety and security. They all sounded panic- stricken,” Kumar, a counsellor at the Elders Helpline, told IANS, requesting he be not identified by his full name.

Figures with the helpline show that apart from murder, 840 elderly people were victims of some form of harassment and abuse in 2008. That is an average of 70 harassment cases every month.

Since its inception in 2002, the helpline has recorded 6,050 cases of harassment and abuse of senior citizens.

“Harassment and abuse include those of physical, emotional and financial nature,” Radha S. Murthy, managing trustee of Nightingales Medical Trust, told IANS.

“We have found that the elders are abused and harassed by those they trust. The abusers are mostly family members, caregivers, service providers and neighbours,” she added.

Bangalore police estimate that out of the city’s eight million population, more than a million are elderly people.

Police records show that around 20 percent of people murdered in Bangalore are above 60. In 2008, there were 229 murders in the city. In the first three weeks of this year, over 20 murders have been recorded.

Bangalore city Police Commissioner Shankar M. Bidari said after the Jayanagar murders that it was difficult for the police to ensure safety of every single senior citizen in the city because of shortage of men.

But, he said, more policemen are being recruited.

NGOs working for senior citizens suggest that senior citizens take precautionary measures and follow certain security steps.

“They have to secure their homes by installing security systems, make thorough background check of domestic helps, never entertain strangers, interact with neighbours,” said N.B. Jayaprakash, director of Dignity Foundation (Bangalore Chapter), another NGO working among the elderly.

“Earlier, the city offered best of life to its senior denizens; now the same population is under threat,” rued Ramesh Shankar, 65, a retired government employee, who is staying alone at his upscale R.T. Nagar home, after his wife’s death last year. His two sons work abroad.

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