Old age allowance becomes godsend for elders

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DHAKA, June 2, 2019 (BSS) – A 67-year-old rural lady Anwara Begum suffering from diabetes was used to face hard time in buying her medicine even two years back as she is a widow and fully depends on her only earning son.

“But, now I can buy medicine by my own money as the government is giving me Taka 1500 after every three months as I am an elderly woman,” she said thanking the government’s Old Age Allowance Programme (OAAP).

Ami Chan, Anwara’s son who took the responsibilities after passing away of his father Mostofa Mia, told her mother to spend the allowance money only for her medicine.

“My son told me to spend this money only for my medicine. My allowance is a relief for him as my medicine cost was a burden for his hard earning money,” she said thanking the government to support the old people.

Echoing the same statement with Anwara her neighbor 65-year old Khoj Banu of Totaliapara village under Vakurta union in Savar district said “I also buy my betel leafs with this money apart from my medicine.”

After passing away her husband Naya Mia, Banu had faced a financial crisis as her day labourer son was fighting very hard to bear the family expenses. “This is my own money. I got every right on it. I feel really good whenever get the money after every three months,” Banu said in a euphoric voice.

Other old ladies of the village expressed the same feelings and said even they can fulfill few coddled demands of their grandchildren with this money.

Wife of late Enayeth Ali of the same village Poribanu said she buy rice at the firsthand after getting the money. “I do buy rice with this allowance so that I can be relieved for whole month.” she said.

Like these widows, many other old people of the country expressed their gratitude to the present government to allocate fund for their wellbeing.

Most of the aged people in the country usually do not have economic provisions such as savings or monthly pension to take care of their financial well-being.

They do not have other option but to depend on others such as their children which often gives them the feeling that they are some kind of burden on their families.

The Social Welfare Ministry had lunched the Old Age Allowance Programme (OAAP) targeting the society’s most vulnerable elderly people in order to ease their plight through providing a direct provision of monthly allowance to defray some of their costs of living.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had introduced the old age allowance project in 1998 during her first term with the objective of upholding position of aged people in the society by building a sense of security in them and by enhancing their image and honor in the family and society.

At that time 403,011 persons were covered under the old age allowance scheme with Taka 100 per month for each.

Currently after nearly two decades, the OAAP has become the largest programme of social welfare ministry that provides Taka 500 every month to 40 lakh of 65 year or onward aged people each.

In the current fiscal year budget the government has allocated Taka 2,400 crore to provide the old age allowances to 40 lakh elderly that was Taka 2,100 crore for 35 lakh old people in the last fiscal.

The Awami League election manifesto of 2009 made the commitment to double the number of recipients of old age and destitute women allowances by 2021.

But the Awami League government has able to fulfill the commitment by this year as number of the old age allowance beneficiaries raised to 40 lakh in the current fiscal year that was 20 lakh before 2009.

However, still many elderly people remain outside the scheme while the allowance amount is also not adequate. But the government is fully aware of it and despite its limited financial capacity it is trying to provide more facilities to the senior citizens of the country.

As a new development paradigm, Social Safety Net Programs (SSNPs) have been pursued by many governments as an effective tool to combat poverty and to bring the distressed people into social inclusion.

Likewise, Bangladesh government has been trying hard to extend support to the deserving people in the form of Social Safety Net Programmes (SSNPs) for the last few decades in line with the country’s constitution that guarantees certain rights to under privileged people.

Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) survey findings report that SSNPs have been widened substantially in the country both in coverage and amount of privilege during the last ten years.

In the current fiscal year 86 lakh distress people have directly been brought under SSNPs that was 75 lakh in the previous 2017-18 fiscal.

Particular emphasis has been given in the fifth five-year plan and in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).

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