“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” – Henry Ford
So age is just a number, is it?
Well, at least that’s what seems to be the case with some of the paradoxical findings that I am about to record here today.
Happy Republic Day my friends!
‘Age and India’ is what I am calling this one. I fail to fathom the many age related discrepancies in the makeup of India. Why is there so much of a contradiction in deciding the right age, the right intellect level, the right jurisprudence in a wide variety of subjects?
Here are some points that come to immediate recall:
Electoral Officer vs. Elector vs. Elected
Retirement – In India, retirement age of a Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is 65, whereas our incumbent PM is over 80. No retirement age for a politician? That means, the efficient discharge of CEC’s position which ultimately shapes up any Government, and subsequently plays a key role in the anointment of our PM is actually questionable beyond 65 while the PM has a free run for literally the rest of his/her life. The contradiction doesn’t end here. CEC is a member of the Indian Civil Services (ICS) or Indian Administrative Services (IAS), employees of each of these services (All India Services) retire at 60, so why is the retirement age of our CEC fixed at 65?
Appointment – Article 84 (b) of Constitution of India provides that the minimum age for becoming a candidate for Lok Sabha election shall be 25 years; Similar provision exists for a candidate to the Legislative Assemblies vide Article 173 (b) of the Constitution read with Sec. 36 (2) of the R. P. Act, 1950. So basically what that points at, is that you can have the wisdom to be an elector at 18 but not an elected member before you turn 25. Aha!
Pvt. Sector Employees vs. Central Govt Employees
Why do majority of employees in the Indian private sector retire at 58, whereas central government employees at a uniform 60? In addition, an employee ceases to become a member of Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) after 58 years whereas no such age is fixed to stop provident fund contributions between 58 and 60. What is the yardstick here?
High Court Judges vs. Supreme Court Judges
Now this one completely bamboozles me. SC Judges in India retire at 65 and HC Judges retire at 62. Squeezing a ‘why’ here could hold me in contempt, so I’ll make a quick dash towards my full stop.
Drinking age vs. Smoking age vs. Serving age
Did you know that the legal drinking age in Maharashtra’s Wardha District is 30? In a metropolitan city like Delhi and Mumbai it is 25, southern states like Karnataka and Kerala tag it as 21, Uttar Pradesh and Goa have the permissible age to consume liquor at 18. Such variations, aren’t they absurd and archaic? Smoking age is uniform across India i.e. 18 years. Another bizarre finding pertains to serving liquor. Take for instance, the Delhi Excise Act that allows anyone above 21 to serve liquor. You can handle liquor at 21, but not buy it, not gulp it! Brilliant!!!
Child Labour vs. Begging age
As per the Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) Act, 1986, all form of child labor for children below 14 years is banned in India. Let’s clap for that.
Here arises the contradiction. ‘Home-based works’ such as firework manufacturing or beedi rolling inside their own home are activities not covered under the above cited law. In addition, inside a factory employing children below 14 is a crime, making the age group 14-18 quite vulnerable for exploitation. And everyone overlooks the begging menace where children from infancy to 18 are seen slogging the day out. I fail to figure out, what is the right age to define a child in India? If they are below 18 and they rape, you dub them as a child (juvenile), otherwise childhood ceases to be a matter once you cross 14. How bizarre!
Education – Administrators vs. Educators
Capital of India, New Delhi, throws another bizarre disparity when it comes to age. Top administration officials of the Delhi University (DU) can occupy office till 70 years of age whereas professors retire at 65. Why are the administrators, namely, the Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dean of Colleges, and the South Campus Director more privileged than educators is what I fail to understand?
Consensual Sex vs. Marital Rape
The law of the land as it stands today is that a man in India will be tried for rape, if he indulges in sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 years of age, irrespective of whether she gives consent or not. He will go scot-free if he indulges in consensual sex or ‘marital rape’ with his own wife above the age of 15. Yes, you read it right! While the legal age to marry for girls is 18 as per the Child Marriage Act, but clearly some judgements have shown that a child marriage where a girl aged above 15 years is not void, but voidable.
Today is a great day for the world’s largest democracy, India, my motherland. As much as we love our nation, sing the anthem with our heads held high, watch the Republic Day parade with utter pride, we must continue to self-introspect and improve. India’s love affair with antiquity and colonial era has to end. Hope we all settle these age debates once and for all. May wisdom prevail!
I do not mean to disrespect any of the august offices that I have mentioned here. I have just tried to exercise my Freedom of Speech to wrestle with some contradictions as they arose in my mind.
The magnitude of this research work was enormous for a ‘time-starved’ me. I would like to offer an unconditional apology if I have my facts misplaced on any of the observations made above. Please leave a comment and educate me if my research (dated this 26th day of January, 2014) or the interpretation of it is wrong.