Chanchal Kanti Chakma retired from civil service last year. For the rest of his life, he will have to rely on the modest amount of pension he receives from the government as he does not have any other source of income. But this did not keep him from taking on a new duty, rather an additional responsibly, on his shoulders.
He decided to help out elderly residents, above the age of 65, of his neighbourhood on a regular basis by arranging lifetime monthly allowances for them from his pension payment.
The first five recipients -- four women and one man -- of the allowance are from his home village of North Kamukkachhara in Khagrachhari’s Dighinala upazila.
Explaining the philosophy behind his old age allowance initiative, Chanchal said government employees can carry on with their lives with lifetime pension they get after retiring at 59. But others, who are no longer unable to earn for themselves due to old age, experience tremendous financial hardship to survive.
From this realisation, he decided to pay lifetime allowances for the needy elderly, he told this correspondent during a conversation over phone.
If possible, he will try increasing the number of recipients in future, Chanchal also said.
Bimala Devi Chakma, 71, is one of the allowance recipients. She said, “My husband and I live with our son. But none of us get any government allowance.”
She started receiving the lifetime old age allowance of Tk 500 from Chanchal Kanti this month and she used the money for buying her medicines, she added.
Sixty-seven-year-old Nagori Chakma, another of Chanchal’s allowance recipients, said no one came forward to help an elderly like her. “People from the union council came and put our names in their lists many times, but we got nothing.”
Now that she has started receiving the monthly allowance from Chanchal, she is able to meet some of her basic needs with the money, said Nagori.
Asked why all the eligible senior citizens in the union could not be brought under the monthly Old Age Allowance scheme of the government, Boalkhali Union Parishad Chairman Chaian Bikash Chakma said the funds provided under the government scheme is insufficient for all the eligible senior citizens in the union.
Due to fund limitations, 710 individuals out of total 1,090 eligible recipients in the union are currently receiving the Tk 500 monthly government allowance, paid every three months.
The social welfare ministry allocates funds for the scheme once a year and a committee in each upazila finalises the list of recipients, based on recommendations made by chairmen and members of union parishads, Chaian Bikash added.