Few years ago, I was having a meeting with a World Bank team on the implementation of a water supply project in Himachal Pradesh. It was felt that Himachal needs to learn from other countries, about improving water supply as well as flood management during the rainy season. In that meeting, one of the members of the world bank intimated that there is a group of retired engineers in the Netherlands who provide technical assistance to other countries free of cost on these issues as, Netherlands is one of the best country in the world in management of water resources. This discussion really drew my attention towards the role of senior citizens in providing useful services to the community. I was really impressed that experts/ professionals in water management are willing to devote their time and energy for the betterment of the mankind.
I also remember an event during my visit to Japan, few years ago. I went to Kamakura, a city near Tokyo (Japan) where there were good number of Buddhist temples and monuments. I was keen to have an English speaking guide to take me around. When, I came out of the railway station, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Kiosk, where it was written that senior citizens are available as volunteers for cultural tour of the city. I was assigned a senior citizen who was very affable and took me around in the city and showed the cultural treasure, with full vigour and pride.
I have narrated these two incidents to show the willingness of the senior citizens to help others. We in India, have a long tradition of serving the community. People from all walks of life, contribute in various ways to help the poor and needy persons. In last few decades, the life span of people has increased considerably due to better health facilities and living conditions. Now, we have a large number of senior citizens who have retired from their profession due to the mandatory condition of superannuation at a particular age or they have voluntarily decided to pass on the baton to the next generation and start their 2nd innings. They are very experienced and full of energy to do something for the betterment of the nation. In my view, senior citizen between 60 to 75 years are in the most productive age, as they have requisite skill & experience along with good physical health. If we can harness the energy of such senior citizens, it can be very useful for the betterment of the society. The difficulty is that many of them are not able to find the right organization which can engage them in such activities.
I think this Forum/Portal could be a great bridge to connect the senior citizens who are keen to help by devoting their time and energy with the people who need such help. This portal can capture the skills and areas of interest of willing senior citizens and also have the inventory of people and organizations which are seeking such help in various fields. For example, the retired teachers could devote their time in teaching the rural students through online/ mobile applications. The professionals can provide technical guidance to various NGOs/ Organizations, which are working for the welfare of the common people. Skill upgradation could also be done to make our youth employable. Retired Govt. officers from All India Services and other services could help the needy and socially disadvantaged persons to access the benefits of government schemes and make them aware of the benefits to be taken from these schemes. Besides above, they may focus on other vulnerable issues for the awareness of the general public and deprived sections of the society such as welfare, health care, road safety and environmental protection The senior citizens who has specialized in a particular field could suggest tangible policy changes to the government for the betterment of the nation. Thus, this portal could unfold various options through which the senior citizens could help in nation’s building.
Dr. Shrikant Baldi is presently Chairperson, Himachal Real Estate Regulatory Authority. He is Former Chief Secretary, Himachal Pradesh.