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The problems of getting old

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www.alterhill.org/

By Arka Mondal

The recent incidents of crime targeted against senior citizens in metropolis across India, especially in Kolkata, have raised some serious questions about their safety. In the last one year, at least eight elderly citizens have been brutally murdered in Kolkata. The attacks further expose the vulnerability of the aged in a city where more and more youngsters are abandoning their parents in search of a better livelihood.

With the advent of modernity and globalisation and the accompanying phenomena of industrialisation, urbanisation and migration, there has been a gradual dilution of the conventional living style. Number of nuclear families is escalating and more and more elderly are now living alone. This trend is gaining momentum with increase in life expectancy. The perception regarding maintenance of elderly as a pious obligation is also wearing off. Thanks to these changes, the elderly are feeling isolated and are facing numerous other deprivations. They have become soft prey for criminals and elder abuse has become a social menace. Meanwhile, the extraordinary medical triumph has ushered in an unprecedented increase in life expectancy of people in the country. The percentage of 60 plus population in India is on the rise, providing a challenge for their well-being and security as well. The historical cultural tradition of care and respect for the elderly is gradually evaporating due to change in life style and globalisation. In recent time, there has been a spurt in crime against older citizens in the city and across India. Especially, the wealthy senior citizens are more prone to security risks, since they are vulnerable to exploitation, pressure and physical threats for property and financial gain from their children, relatives and other unsocial elements.

Police prescribes that aged people should always avoid going out alone. Even when accompanied by their family members, they should shun heavy jewellery that could lure criminals. Police say, those staying alone in individual houses should desist from keeping valuables and cash and should deposit in safe vaults. Even if one has cash or valuable jewellery at home, it should be the least discussed matter especially before flower vendors, LPG cylinder delivery boys, grocery shop delivery boys, servant maids, laundry boys, cable TV technicians, drivers, electricians and plumbers. While engaging or hiring workers such as drivers and servant maids on a regular basis, senior citizens should insist on getting their photograph and address proof and if required, they could always approach the police for getting their antecedents verified in a discreet manner. Senior citizens should always keep contact with the Station House Officer of the jurisdiction police station and should never hesitate to inform the police of any disturbing trend putting that jeopardises their safety.

However, a united effort from all age groups is needed to lend a helping hand to the elder citizens. There is no denying the fact that it is the effort of these old people who had consolidated the base for us to thrive upon.

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Activists In Myanmar Push To End Police Brutality

The European Union is spending 30 million euros on a five-year project launched in 2016 to help Myanmar’s police become a “modern” force

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Myanmar, Police
Police officers stand in position to block activists during a rally in Yangon, Myanmar, May 12, 2018. VOA

Aung Soe Htike tried to ask for an explanation when police in Yangon handcuffed him and put him in a car one evening in November of last year.

But instead of answering, the small business owner said the officers told him to shut up.

He told VOA he was taken to a police station, where two or three men waiting for him in a back room locked him in.

It was only when they showed him CCTV footage of a man stealing a phone that he understood why he was there. The thief in the video looked similar to him; he and the thief were wearing shorts.

He said he told the officers they had the wrong man, but it was of no use.

For about four hours, Aung Soe Htike alleged, uniformed and plain-clothed police subjected him to violent interrogation techniques that he described as torture.

Myanmar, Police
Defendants look out from a police truck as they arrive at a district court, in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec. 15, 2017. VOA

Aung Soe Htike’s case is one of dozens in the past year that have revealed the methods Myanmar’s military-controlled police force uses to extract confessions.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local rights group, said “physical and mental torture” is “systematic” across Myanmar’s interrogation centers.

“They made me sit in a stress position, they accused me of theft, they swore at me, they beat me,” said Aung Soe Htike. At one point, he added, an interrogator held him in a choke hold and told him “you will die tonight” before forcing him to confess.

His wife and some friends came looking for him at the station, and finally managed to secure his release after convincing the township police colonel that he had been wrongfully arrested.

Police at Yangon’s Ahlone township station declined to comment on the incident when contacted by VOA.

Colonel Myo Thu Soe, a spokesperson at Myanmar Police Force headquarters, said he was unaware of Aung Soe Htike’s case but that police interrogations were “transparent” and interrogation rooms were monitored with CCTV cameras.

Myanmar, Police
Daw Aye holds a photo of her son, who died after being taken into police custody last year (J. Carroll/VOA)

“Torturing suspects is not allowed under police regulations,” he said.

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, a nominally independent body tasked with investigating abuses, handled 29 allegations of torture by police last year, including five where suspects died in custody.

Commissioner Yu Lwin Aung said he has passed Aung Soe Htike’s case to the home affairs ministry, which oversees the police force, with a recommendation that they take action against the officers involved. The ministry’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

But Aung Soe Htike said there has been little progress, and is not confident an internal investigation will deliver justice.

Daw Aye is still waiting for answers after her son, Aung Aung, died in police custody in September last year.

When she visited him in prison before his court hearing, she told VOA, he recounted officers kicking him in the chest and back and Tasering him during interrogation.

Police
Activists gather at a rally, calling for the release of imprisoned Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, one year after they were arrested, in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec.12, 2018. (VOA)

He was arrested on suspicion of stealing a car battery, a crime she says he was innocent of. Then as he emerged from a police van at court two weeks later, he collapsed and was dead within hours.

Yu Lwin Aung said the human rights commission has referred this case to the home affairs ministry but has yet to receive a response.

It’s a similar story for Tin Tin Aye, who said she watched as a group of police beat her son, Khaing Min Wai, when they arrested him in June.

They took him to a police station, and the next morning she saw his dead body at the hospital, with marks and cuts on his face, she told VOA.

Mon Mon Cho, a lawyer who is advising Tin Tin Aye, said accountability is key to preventing more cases like this in the future.

“The government must take action against these violent people,” she said.

Even though a civilian government came to power for the first time in decades following a huge electoral victory in 2015, the country’s military-drafted constitution still puts the generals in charge of three key ministries, including home affairs.

Journalists appeal got rejected
Reuters journalists Wa Lone, left, and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec. 11, 2017. (VOA)

For Aung Soe Htike, ending the military’s grip on the police is key to tackling a culture of violence and impunity. Until that happens, efforts to train officers in human rights will fall flat, he said.

Also Read: 1,700 Child Soldiers Reunite With Their Parents In Myanmar

The European Union is spending 30 million euros on a five-year project launched in 2016 to help Myanmar’s police become a “modern” force that “adheres to international standards, respects human rights and maintains gender awareness.”

But Aung Soe Htike said, “It doesn’t matter how much money the EU spends on them, it won’t make a difference unless the Myanmar Police Force is separated from the military.” (VOA)