I recently read an article on BBC news entitled “India’s abandoned women struggle to survive“, which talks about a growing population of widows in India with no access to adequate pension programs nor familial care. The article begins by outlining the situation in Vrindavan, Northern India, where thousands of widows seek help from charities after having been abandoned by their family members and unable to support themselves through meagre government pensions. The author then goes on to describe the dire situation of the widows, forced to take part in religious chants or begging to gain end’s meet. The women often live on a single meal a day, and have little access to services, proper housing and sanitation. Finally, the article is concluded by highlighting the issues presented by India’s growing aged population and the costs required if social security systems were to be implemented.
The first knowledge claim made by the author in the article appears when Kannan claims that ‘ageing women are more vulnerable than men’. Next, another knowledge claim is presented: ” the lack of a nationwide national social security system poses serious risks to the economy”. Finally Kannan makes yet another knowledge claim at the end of the article stating “[N]either the government nor the private sector have any simple solutions to offer. And for some, it may already be too late.”
After reading the article, I considered the central knowledge question raised by this piece of news. One possible knowledge question that arises is “To what extent should governments be responsible for improving elderly care and pension programs?”. Based on the central knowledge question, I also came up with 4 other associated knowledge questions:
Associated Knowledge Question 1- How effective are government programs in providing care and financial stability for those unable to work?
Associated Knowledge Question 2- To what extent are family members responsible for elderly care and obliged to fulfil that responsibility?
Associated Knowledge Question 3- In what situations can governmental elderly care programs/policies be seen to increase/decrease public health and family cohesiveness?
Associated Knowledge Question 4- To what extent does integration of females in the workplace reduce the amount of elderly struggling to survive?
BBC new is a known to be a very reputable news source. In my personal experience, I have had most teachers recommend BBC as a reliable and trust worthy news source when required to research current events or read news articles. However, there recently ahs been a lot of controversy in regards to the news source’s reliability, with many claiming that BBC has a left-wing preference and presents news with a left-wing point of view. Here is a link to an article which describes BBC’s reputation and recent debate over its sources of bias. The particular news article about Indian widows slightly reflects the left-wing bias through the language and tone used in the article and video. For example in the article, the quotation “But the number of old people is rising steadily. The UN warns it could triple, reaching 300 million within the next 40 years.[…]With families struggling to care for their elders at home, the plight of these women is likely to become increasingly common.”, shows the BBC’s slant. The news source concludes without evidence that a growth in elderly population could result in further problems, however fails to consider the possibility that an increase in elderly population may encourage or force the government to implement care programs. In addition, the video demonstrates the aid being provided by Maitri, a local NGO in a very positive light. However, is the work by Maitri sufficient if the widows are only receiving a single meal a day? Another example of BBC’s left-wing stance in the video is the mention of how widows “come to Vrindavan to recive charity while they wait to die”. This claim is quite gruesome and is not supported by any statistics indicating the widows want to die. The sentence is also attached to negative emotional connotations, which may manipulate audiences to adopt a left-wing stance; implying that such social inequalities be abolished immediately by the Indian government.
On the other hand, I feel as though the article is also quite informative and somewhat objective, as it presents relevant statistics and is succinct and factual, meaning there is little room for opinion in the piece. Furthermore, in the article, there is a small section of comments by a KPMG official:
“One step could be, can you establish a subsidy mechanism for screening or providing some medication for these people? That could have a certain cost,” says Amit Mookim, head of healthcare at KPMG.”Then, is there a mechanism to take care of certain procedures, operations or surgeries which is then contracted to private players? That is another cost.”Then there is the end-of-life care for which the infrastructure doesn’t exist – so how much infrastructure can you build?”
The inclusion of these comments, as well as quotes from people who demand improved social security demonstrates BBC’s objectiveness. They first show the side of the story which claims governmental and familial efforts are insufficient,then subsequently show the opinion that instilling elderly care policies is not currently feasible in India.
Based on these examples, I believe the article reflects the BBC’s bias in a minor way. However, since the bias is so subtle in this particular article, I believe it does not hinder the comprehensive communication of the story.
In determining the extent to which governments should be responsible for elderly care, the associated knowledge question of whether or not family members are responsible for elderly care would have to be considered. In order to arrive at a conclusion about the central knowledge question, various case studies from different countries would have to taken into account. The effectiveness of various governmental policies currently implemented in different parts of the world would have to be examined. Also, the ethical implications of forcing taxation and/or familial care upon a population would have to be considered. Finally, all other associated knowledge questions as well as their implications would have to be considered before attaining a conclusion to the central question.
In conclusion, based on my current knowledge, I believe that governments should be responsible for providing adequate healthcare, financial aid and pension programs for the elderly population as despite no longer being able to contribute productively to the workforce, the elderly still have the basic human right to access to healthcare, sanitation and nutrition, in other words the right to live. However, depending on the nation and circumstances, policies may differ in different places based on the specific issues and needs of that a particular population. In order to determine an effective program for a specific region, the current situation, culture and infrastructure as well as budget limitations would have to be considered.
The knowledge claims and questions that arose from reading BBC’s article made me think about a similar article I had recently read. This article talked about a 94 year old woman in China who sued her children for emotionally and physically neglecting her and refusing to take care of her in her old age, after a new rule was instated obliging children to care for and frequently visit their parents. The article draws many parallels to the situation in India and further considers whether the elderly are a responsibility of the government of of family members, and can be read here. The article about the situation in China offers an example of a country where governments require children by law to take care of their elderly parents. This led me to consider the ethical implications of such laws and of the absence of such laws and the human rights and freedom of choice issues it raises.