Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak promised in 2014 that retirement homes [senior citizens homes] will be established in the province for those seniors citizen who cannot afford to live alone and do not have family to support them.
The provincial government back in 2014 passed Senior Citizens Act, 2014 to facilitate senior citizens of the province. The act, a copy of which is available with Truth Tracker, stated that the people older than 60 years will get benefits like free entry to public places included museums, libraries, parks and recreation facilities.
A handout related to the bill, which was shared with the media in 2014, quoted chief minister as saying that under the act, retirement houses will also be established and monthly stipends will be provided to the senior citizens.
Furthermore, the act stated that a concession in medical and medicine charges, separate medical wards in hospitals and membership of organization of senior citizens corps will also be established.
While speaking to Truth Tracker, Kamran Zarin, Provincial Coordinator of HelpAge who works for the rights of senior citizens in the province said that establishment of senior citizen homes were under consideration but is yet to be established.
He explained that the project was promised by CM under the senior citizen’s act of the province and two districts-Peshawar and Nowshera-were proposed for the pilot projects.
“We are looking forward to the government for implementation of the proposed projects of establishment of senior citizen’s homes,” Zarin said.
A government official, privy to the development told Truth Tracker on the condition of anonymity, as he wasn’t allowed to speak to the media, that nothing mentioned in the senior citizen’s act has been implemented so far in the province.
When asked about the senior citizen homes, he said the government is yet to formulate any strategy for its establishment and that the act was just discussed in one of the meeting of the social welfare department.
Furthermore, he said the stipends, which were promised to be given to senior citizens, haven’t been provided despite the fact the act was passed back in 2014. “The summary of the stipends has been forwarded to the chief minister long ago but it remains to be approved.”
Only the health department of the province has taken step last week to establish separate wards for senior citizens in the hospitals, the official said, adding, notification has been issued in this regard.
Currently, the government is providing a stipend of Rs6000 to 500 senior citizens of the province in only five districts included Shangla, Mansehra, Tank, Karak and Battagram but it’s another project of the government. “These funds are provided from the special grants setup years ago and not under the senior citizens act.”
According to 1998 census, there are total of 2.5 million senior citizens in the province aged 60 and above. So far, Zarin said that issuance of senior citizens card’s summary is also pending with the chief minister and awaits consideration. The card will help the senior citizens as proof of their age and will to get benefits under the senior citizens act.
Shakir Baba, president of the Senior Citizens Association established by Community Research and Development Organization (CRDO) who jointly works with HelpAge for rights of the old-age people told Truth Tracker that the government has approved establishment of separate wards in Nowshera District Headquarter Hospital and these will be inaugurated within few days.
However, he said no progress has been made in establishment of the senior citizens homes. “Establishment of senior citizens homes is important which will help old-age people to live in a comfortable environment.”
While speaking to Turth Tracker, provincial government spokesperson Shah Farman said that the project to establish the homes for senior citizens was still in the pipeline.
Furthermore, he said the government was already working to facilitate old-age people of the province and recently a notification has been issued to setup separate wards in all hospitals of the province for the senior citizens.
Keeping in the view the versions of officials, independent organizations and public representatives, the Truth Tracker rules that no work progress has been seen to establish senior citizens home in the province and hence the promise has been broken.