As life members of an association of the aged, it has become a specific responsibility for people like us to relate the present with the past and look to the future. This is done while not ignoring our traditional status of individual, family and society against the plea of remittance inflows and other factors important for economic development from globalisation since the 1980s and to pursue Western countries blindfolded. It is not money and the attainment of material possessions by hook or crook that can make life meaningful in whatever religion one may belong. 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' that is making the lives of innocent law abiding citizens unbearable. Most young people will not feel the impact of this at the moment. But as soon as they reach middle-age, life would have a different meaning as the reality of mortality would become clear.
Bangladesh has an old association for the aged founded in 1960 in erstwhile East Pakistan. Now known as the Bangladesh Association for the Aged and Institute of Geriatric Medicine (BAAIGM), it is still carrying on with the mission that it was originally set up for. It was founded by the late Dr. AKM Abdul Wahed following his retirement from service in Dhanmondi, Dhaka with help from his friends of the time.
It is said in Bangladesh that 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 Md. Kamal Uddin in a paper circulated by him during the last AGM of BAAIGM on February 10, 2018. In his paper, there were other suggestions by him like amendments including rotation of leadership in executive committee positions and provision that leaders in the committee like Chairman, Secretary General and others, cannot be elected to a post for more than two terms in a row.
There was an election for BAAIGM held recently and another election for the BAAIGM is due next year. Primarily, it can be hoped that this trend will be maintained while ensuring transparency and rotation of leadership. It is true that NGOs are oligarchic in Bangladesh. BAAIGM can be democratic by being true to the spirit of its founders so that other organisations can follow and relevant authorities of registration can monitor. It can be recalled that USAID/ AVSC launched a comprehensive investigation on national level NGOs in 1980s and eventually asked for rotation of voluntary leadership/ Executive Committee in these NGOs of the country.
Secondly, the age limit for membership of BAAIGM may be raised from 55 to 65 years. In other words, after retirement of service following the age of superannuation or 65 years, as is recognised by the government. This is also the time when someone is considered as a Senior citizen/Aged. It can be recalled that Dr. Wahed had founded the organisation after his retirement. A membership from 65 years of age will allow the member to do more work for the organisation. S/he will be able to give full time to the work like the founder and in no case would it 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 for 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 utilised and no fund remains idle but kept in interest-bearing accounts. As the time allotted for discussion in AGM was short and speakers were chosen by lottery, the secretary general can show the salient points of his report that has already been sent. The time saved can be provided to others who want to speak on specific points.
Additionally, BAAIGM could consider programmes in association with religious affairs and cultural ministries that can imbibe family affinity and thereby restore social peace and harmony.
It is disastrous for aged people in the country whose land has been grabbed or cannot earn money for their family. If the government considers it, those senior citizens who are no longer receiving pensions and benefits can be given monthly allowance.
Muhammad Quamrul Islam is an economist, advocate and social activist
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