Published:  12:25 AM, 09 February 2019

Thoughts on the aged in Bangladesh

Thoughts on the aged in Bangladesh

As life-members of an association of the aged, we are specifically responsible to relate the present time with the past and look to the future, not ignore our traditional status of individual, family and society, on the plea of remittance inflows etc for economic development since 1980s, and so to pursue Western countries blindfolded. It is not money and material possessions that make life meaningful, to whatever religion one may belong. Or one may pose as an atheist to talk tall about humanism and internationalism but, in reality, practices selfish routes.

One has to uphold and practice moral values true to the spirit of religion that is eternal, shun corruptions of all sorts, and bribery in all stages now named speed money or so  that is making the lives of innocent law abiding citizens unbearable. It might not sense so, as one grows up in changing society and world bent upon enjoy the life at the utmost, but soon when he becomes old, life would be of different meaning waiting for inevitable death; new wealthy elitemight try utmostto blink at that, as vicious habit hardly dies!

Bangladesh has an old Association for the Aged founded in 1960 in erstwhile East Pakistan, which is now known as Bangladesh Association for the Aged and Institute of Geriatric Medicine (BAAIGM), who are to carry the mission for which it was established and not derail by the pressure of circumstances, say NGO phenomenon grown up that are not voluntary or charitable institutions, after the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. Dr A K M Abdul Wahed after retirement from service founded it in Dhanmondi Dhaka in cooperation with his friends of the time ready for a good cause; which are hardly available in post Bangladesh when run to reap sovereign benefits overtaking the genuine at any cost became the norm.

Hopefully, BAAIGM in its 51st Annual General Meeting on 09 February 2019 will uphold the ideals and step forward. It is said in Bangladesh there is too much work on too less people and too less work on too many People.There may be redistribution of work in executive committee, as suggested by life member no.1726 Md. Kamal uddin in a paper circulated by him during last AGM on February 10, 2018.

There were other issues also which do not find place with the papers circulated with invitation letters dated 17 January 2019 for 51st AGM.  He suggested some amendments like rotation of leadership in executive committee providing Chairman, Secretary General and other members cannot be elected to a post for more than two terms.

 It is really pleasing sign that there was competitive election and next election is due next year. Hope this trend will be maintained, transparency will be ensured and rotation of leadership be implemented. It is true NGOs are oligarchic in Bangladesh; let BAAIGM be democratic and tread this course true to the spirit of its founders for others to follow; which relevant authorities of registration may monitor. It is recalled USAID/ AVSC launched a comprehensive investigation on nationallevel NGO in 1980s askedfor rotation of voluntary leadership/ Executive Committee in the country.

Secondly, the age limit for membership of BAAIGM may be raised from 55 to 65 years. In other words, on retirement of service upon attaining the age of superannuation or 65 years as recognized by the government to be considered Senior citizen/ Aged. Dr. Wahed founded took up this work on retirement.  S/he who can give full time to work like him would give leadership from executive committee; and in no case it would be deemed as subsidiary to his her main occupation.

Thirdly, while providing Hospital services and old homes, as detailed in the report, revised budget for 2018-19 and proposed budget 2019-20 and audit report as per agenda, it is necessary to concentrate on research in fields related to the Aged. 

Budgetary control measures are undertaken so that grants received from the government, receipts from internal sources and international aid are properly utilized and no fund remain idle but kept in interest bearing account.

As the time allotted for discussion in AGM becomes short and speakers are chosen by lottery, it is felt secretary general may show the salient points of his report that has already been sent and time so saved may be given to those who want to speak on specific points.

A retired official life member expressed his anguish some speak on trifling matters spoiled time, while needed points remain unspoken. There is hardly any point to ignore the traditional respect and care shown to the parents by their grown up children no matter remain here and abroad, while returning from Mosque after saying prayer.

The parents however rich do not feel the necessity to book for Old Homes, as after all it is not substitute of love and affection both ways till death. Now in private sector commercially costly old homes are made available to neo wealthy who hardly cares to remember their past.

In Indian Bangla channels serials are cast to protect Bengali cultural heritage under threat from the West. BAAIGM may take up the matter with Religion Ministry and Cultural Ministry undertakes such programs that imbibe family affinity and thereby social peace and harmony is restored.

We have mosques around the country, where members of BAAIGM at center and its 82 branches usually meet and say prayers, which may sent moral messages quoting holy Quran and Hadith.What happens as educated unemployed with university degrees in huge numbers with entire heart for parents, having no source of income in the country and no means to go abroad for wage earning, to   family?

It is disaster on the Aged whose land has been grabbed etc., cannot earn money for family. A retired Corporation official request disadvantaged Aged who are not getting any pension and benefits may be given monthly allowance as government is giving largesse to different groups, freedom fighters, which will increase his status in family and society. Our new government of Sheikh Hasina may consider on priority.

The writer is an economist,
advocate and social activist.

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