Stealing from the elderly poor!
That corruption has seeped into every aspect of our social and political life is no news, and yet one can't help but be dismayed at the lengths our public officials are willing to go and who they are willing to steal from—in this case, the elderly population of Hajipur union under Kulaura upazila. As per government rules, the minimum age limit to be eligible for the old-age allowance is 65 for men and 62 for women. However, a recent report by The Daily Star highlights that people in their forties and fifties are reaping the benefits of the social safety net programme that is supposed to assist impoverished older people to meet their basic needs. In many cases, people who died as long as five or seven years ago are still on the list, and their allowances are being withdrawn by their family members. This means that those truly in need of these allowances are being robbed of their entitlements.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident—the picture is the same in almost all unions and upazilas in the country. Though Bangladesh's Old Age Allowance programme has the potential to alleviate the sufferings of the country's poor older population—even if to a limited extent—it has not been as effective as it could be in reaching the target population because of corruption, malpractice and abuse of power by locally elected representatives who are entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the list of beneficiaries. Even when locals identify and protest against irregularities, hardly ever is stern action taken against errant representatives who misuse their power and cheat those most in need of state assistance.
In this particular case, there are allegations against Union Parishad members which must be investigated. Beyond that, there should be full transparency in the selection process of safety net programmes and the community, particularly the targeted beneficiaries. Community-based organisations in the area should also be included in the implementation of the programme to ensure accountability and success.