KARACHI: After a delay of around one-and-a-half years since the Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Senior Citizen Welfare Act, 2014 “for the welfare of senior citizens across the province”, the Sindh government on Wednesday constituted a 16-member council to devise a mechanism to ensure ambitious benefits to elderly population as promised in the law, officials said.

According to a notification issued by the provincial government, advisor to the chief minister for social welfare ministry will be chairperson of the council.

Other members included health minister Dr Sikandar Men­dhro, Syed Sardar Ahm­ed, MPA, Samina S Vertejee, vice president of the Senior Citizen Caregivers organisation, Mir Hussain Ali [a retired government officer], Shamim Ahmed Firpo, president Karachi Cham­ber of Commerce and Industry, and Muhammad Aslam Shaikh, a retired additional district and sessions Judge.

Besides, a representative of Sindh Rural Support Organisation, secretaries of finance, health, local government, zakat and ushr, transport, food and agriculture ministries would be members of the council.

Secretary of the social welfare ministry will act as a member and secretary of the council.

Advisor to the chief minister on social welfare, Shamim Mumtaz, called it a “commendable piece of legislation” for the welfare of senior citizens and other social issues.

“The assembly has taken lead in turning our country into a welfare state in the real sense,” she claimed.

However, she conceded that implementation on many laws passed by the provincial legislature had been a drawback [on the part of the government] due to “lethargy of the concerned quarters”.

“Senior citizens are priceless assets for the nation and our young society must benefit from their experience,” she said. “Unfortunately we have forgotten our cultural values in the craze of modernization.”

According to the Act, the council would be a body corporate, having perpetual succession and a common seal with the power to acquire, hold and dispose of property both movable and immovable, and would by the said name sue and be sued.

The headquarters of the council would be in Karachi and would establish its offices at district level across Sindh.

An official member appointed by virtue of one’s office would cease to be the member on vacating such office. A non-official member would hold office for a period of three years from the date of one’s appointment, and would be eligible for re-appointment for such duration as the government may determine.

A non-official member may at any time, before the expiry of his term, resign from the office, or be removed from office by the government without assigning any reason.

The Act said the council would take such measures and perform such functions as may be necessary for welfare of the senior citizens and improving their well-being of the elderly and participation in the society.

The council would formulate policies for welfare and improving the well-being of senior citizens; issue the Senior Citizens Card (Azadi Card) by providing essential services and benefits to the senior citizens; establish senior citizens lodging establishment, homes for physical, mental, emotional, social and economic well-being of senior citizens; promote participation of senior citizens in the national life and use their knowledge, skills and experience in various fields of life; liaise with national and international agencies and NGOs for providing financial assistance periodically in improving of the well-being of senior citizens; provide free geriatric, medical and health services with medicines as prescribed by the respective medical officer from government dispensaries, hospitals, medical centres and 25 per cent concession on all private hospitals, medical centers and clinics.

The council would also provide assistance to the retired senior citizen to get one’s pensionary benefits and other dues from the concerned departments and organisations; provide 50pc concession in fares in road transport and 25pc discount on purchase of goods, drugs, medicines and essential commodities for his personal use and services provided to him by the manufacturers, retailers, service providers and professionals.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2017