On February 22, the Union Cabinet approved the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen's Bill, 2006, which makes supporting old parents and senior citizens mandatory, and provides for punishment -- jail terms and fines -- for abandoning them.
Against this backdrop, we decided to visit Vishranthi, a home for poor, abandoned women in Chennai.
Vishranthi was born in 1978 under the guidance of a kind-hearted lady, Savithri Vaithi (right, in the picture, with a resident), as an offshoot of a voluntary housewives' organisation called the Monday Club.
Many old women used to tell Vaithi of the agony and the loneliness they go through in their children's and relatives' homes. Vishranthi was created for such 'destitute women' who cannot afford to pay and live in an old age home.
Today, it is home for 108 elderly women who have been abandoned by their children and relatives and have no place to go in this big, bad world.
"We wanted to give them a place to stay in so that they could spend their old age with dignity and die with dignity," said Vaithi, 29 years after she began her mission of love.
There was a time when Vishranthi would admit only destitute women. Now, sons and daughters come, sign the papers and abandon their mothers. They also declare they have no money to pay for their mothers' welfare.
To the question: 'What should we (Vishranthi) do when your mother dies?' many of them say, 'Do whatever you want to, because we may not be able to come.'
Reportage: Shobha Warrier in Chennai
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj