‘Fragile Body and Failing Memory’: The Construction of Care for the Elderly by the Laws and Policies in India
The genesis of legal discourse around care for the elderly in India can be traced to the international gerontological discourse, which pathologizes ageing and attempts to rectify it by providing universal, technical solutions to the elderly. It completely ignores the subjective articulation of needs by elderly in different socio-cultural locations. Critically analysing relevant judgements and policies, the chapter examines how the elderly are named in policy and law, and how their needs are interpreted. The study finds that the State re-enforces the dependency of the elderly through reiterative nomenclatures, which locates empowerment not solely in terms of their rights as senior citizens, but in terms of their assumed physical fragility. Also, the legal discourse around care in India valorizes the notion of care for the elderly as a matter of the family. The study highlights that the juridical notion of care is limited to ‘maintenance’ of elderly parents, in which the right to care is limited to food, clothing, residence and medical treatment of elders by their potential heirs. Such juridical notion of care bypasses needs of the elders who are childless or are single women. Care remains a uni-directional flow of material things from a person (heir) with greater resources to the elderly who seen as incapable of doing so. Even though this is respite to many, yet juridical care does not address the symbiotic and dialogic nature of care, as is in the case of Chinese law.
KeywordsCare Law Medicalization Vulnerability Needs
I am immensely grateful to Dr. Pratiksha Baxi, my PhD advisor at Centre for Law and Governance, J.N.U., without whose inspiration and insights my analyses would have remained incomplete.
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