Delay in policy implementation hurting older persons more
People aged 60 and above is one crore and 30 lakh in Bangladesh, according to 2011 census and the number is increasing sharply
Seventy-five-year-old Mustafizur Rahman (not real name) has been living in Agargoan's Probin Hitoishi Shangha hostel for over eight years. All of his four children are married and living in the same city.
White-bearded Mustafizur has to spend around Tk7,000 per month to live in the hostel. "Here, I can live the way I want to and when I feel bored, I talk to other older persons like me", said Mustafizur.
He raised children with the best care but now the reality is making him stay away from them.
"All of us who live here have issues with their families," said Mustafizur who was a Public Works Department engineer.
Not only he but a total of 46 financially-stable old men have been living in the 50-bed male-only hostel. Not all elderly people are fortunate enough to live their last days like this.
The story of 60-year-old Jobeda Begum and Mustafizur is quite the opposite. Jobeda comes to the Paribagh foot over bridge for begging every day.
"I don't have anyone to feed me," said Jobeda who has to live with her paralysed daughter in a rented house of Magbazar.
People aged 60 and above is one crore and 30 lakh in Bangladesh, according to 2011 census and the number is increasing sharply. The number was 60 lakh, according to the 1991 census.
People above the age of 60 naturally lose their productivity and become economically vulnerable. To uphold the dignity and rights of older persons, the government formulated the National Policy on Older Persons 2013.
Senior citizens of the country will enjoy different facilities including health access vouchers, saving schemes, reserved seats and tickets at reduced rates while traveling, says the policy.
As the National Policy on Older Persons 2013 had not been implemented yet, the rights of older persons could not be ensured.
The Ministry of Social Welfare had formed a five-member committee headed by National Professor MR Khan in 2014 to draft "Prabin Unnyan Foundation" law. After Khan's demise, the ministry formed another committee headed by Professor Dr Pran Gopal Datta, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
One of the members of the committee, Professor Dr ASM Atiqur Rahman, general secretary of Bangladesh Association for the Aged and Institute of Geriatric Medicine, told The Business Standard that they had submitted the draft law to the ministry two years ago.
"It will become easier to ensure older persons' rights when the law is passed, " Atiqur said. "When an older person will travel on bus, that person will get a ticket at a reduced rate and have reserved seats."
Professor Aminul Haque of University of Dhaka's (DU) Population Sciences department said that 54 percent of one crore and 30 lakh older persons of Bangladesh have to work for their living.
Professor Tania Rahman of DU's Institute of Social Welfare and Research said that the initiatives the government had taken for older persons are inadequate.
The government has not implemented the National Policy on Older Persons yet, said Tania adding that the delay is depriving many old persons of government support.
"We observe that older persons, mostly, cannot afford treatment costs. So medical treatment should be free for them in hospitals," said Tania.
The minimum age for men is 65 years while it is 62 for women to be eligible for old age allowance in Bangladesh. Plus, the elderly persons will have to have a monthly income of less than Tk833.
The government introduced an old age allowance of Tk100 per person in 1997 which is Tk500 now. 44 lakh old persons are receiving this allowance.
As the economic condition of the country is getting better, the government should increase the allowance for older persons, said Tania adding that Tk500 monthly for an older person makes no sense which should be at least Tk3,000 instead.
However, Aminul believes that the government doing well given the state's capacity. He also pointed out that the allowance of Tk500 is a way of honoring a senior citizen's contribution to the country.
The government has enacted the Maintenance of Parents Act 2013 to ensure the social security of the senior citizens, compelling the children to take good care of their parents. Children will have to do whatever it takes to take care of their parents and provide them with food and shelter, says the law.