Millennium Post

Old and growing stronger

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually on 1 October to recognise the contributions of older persons. The UN General Assembly had voted on 14 December 1990 to celebrate this day to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly and to appreciate the contribution of the senior citizens in the society.

The total population of our country is about 1.23 billion and we are ranked second as far as the current estimated population is concerned. China counts 1.351 billon persons and ranks first. We are not going to remain second as our annual growth rate of population is 1.31 per cent. In 2010, number of persons above the age of 60 was 90 million in the country. It is estimated that the figure would surge upto 320 million in 2015. The government has been taking appropriate steps to improve the lives of the aged. The older lot is subjected to abuse, lack of quality health services etc. In case one compares the status of the older politicians with the common elders, one will find that the older politicians are much better in terms of health care, mobility and alertness.

Let us take a look at the politicians who are above 80 and are still active in social and public life, though a few in this club have become  isolated or confined in their room due to their prolonged illness. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at 81 is alert, active and is known for his astuteness.  A world fame economist had an opportunity to function as the Governor of the RBI and the deputy chairperson  of Planning commission prior to joining politics as a soft spoken leader representing Assam in Rajya Sabha.  The five term Rajya Sabha member, Singh, had been the finance minister thrice.  He rescued Indian economy from being ruined due to the worldwide slowdown.  During his tenure as PM from May 2004, Singh demonstrated restrain as he hardly reacted to the holocaustic comments by the opposition.

The labour minister in the government headed by Singh, Sis Ram Ola is 87. He is the eldest member in the union council of ministers.  His present elevation as a cabinet minister might have certain political compulsions as Ola is presently frail and fragile. His clout over the Jat community in Rajasthan is known to be of paramount importance. Senior Congress leaders such as Moti Lal Vora and Mohsina Kidwai at the age of 85 and 81 respectively are still taken in high esteem by the high command because of their rich organisational experience and utility. They have direct access to the party president and other high ups. Vora a former union minister, union cabinet minister and Uttar Pradesh governor though has a tilted back but is mentally active and strong to guide the leadership. Mohsina carries a valuable experience of dealing with party workers and is known as an expert on minority affairs. She served as a the union minister and is presently representing Jharkhand in the Rajya Sabha. Another Congress leader, Balram Jakhar at 90, is physically and mentally strong though his services are not being utilised by the party. Former Speaker Lok Sabha, union minister and governor Jakhar is a Sanskrit scholar. He had to shift his Lok Sabha constituency from Ferozepur in Punjab to Sikar in Rajasthan in the background of 1984 riots.   

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam at 82 is a think-tank and an intellectual par excellence. The missile man was an aerospace engineer.  He graced the highest office and formulated the vision of India 2020. Kalam has been termed as the best apolitical personality to hold the highest office. Kalam is presently devoting his valuable time in bringing awakening in the new generation.
Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, 86, is still relevant in the state politics. He had been dominating the political scenario in Punjab for the last four and half decades.  He is politically and practically sound enough to steer his party to the desired destinations.  Despite delegating his substantial powers to his son Sukhibir, the senior Badal still calls the shots.

The architect of BJP growth L K Advani, 86, looks as straight and healthy as Morarji Desai used to be in this age.  Despite being sidelined in the party, Advani is a force to reckon with. A former RSS Pracharak and deputy prime minister, Advani is known across the country. Another saffron leader presently in isolation, the President Gujarat Parivartan Party, a splinter of the BJP, former CM, Keshubhai Patel, 83, had remained a favourite of the surgeons.  His party could not prove its worth in the last Assembly elections though it is heard that Modi would transfer power to him in the state in case Modi gets elevated as the PM. Ram Jethmalani, 90 has been in and out from the BJP number of times.  A former Union Minister and a well know lawyer is in the habit of arguing the difficult and maligned cases.

V S Achutanandan, 90, Som Nath Chatterjee, 84 and H D Deve Gowda, 83, are active and politically conscious. The three older leaders A B Vajpayee, 88, George Fernandes, 83, and Sheila Kaul, 99, are either confined in a room or in a passive state.       

The author is a communication consultant
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