The reported refusal of the Election Commission (EC) to introduce special type of National Identity Card (NID) for the country's senior citizens citing 'technical difficulties' is indeed shocking. The Ministry of Social Welfare had approached the EC for such cards to elderly citizens so that they could clearly be identified for facilities to be offered by the government. It is really surprising that the EC has become a hostage to technology at a time when technology itself is being tailored to meet ever- changing human needs.
The EC's alleged difficulty in preparing special type of NID appears to be just an excuse as it is not rational in today's world of fast-changing technologies. Absence of special NIDs will put the government and other organisations in serious difficulties. They cannot be distinguished from others who are not senior citizens to offer facilities. Such a clear distinction is a must.
The EC's refusal came even when both President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have underscored the need for recognising the senior citizens' glorious role in their life-time. The President, being the head of the state, himself declared the elderly people as 'senior citizens' of the country while the prime minister, being the head of the government, had 'The National Policy on Elderly 2013' approved by the cabinet in this regard. The President is also on record as having urged all quarters to ensure their social dignity and security, and other facilities including food, clothing and treatment.
It is a fact that the number of elderly people is increasing in the country because tremendous improvement of medical science has helped raise human longevity. The number of the country's total elderly people is now 13 million and this number will stand at 18 million by 2025 and 40 million by 2050. It means the size of the elderly people will be around 20 per cent of the total population.
The President has also laid emphasis on keeping the elderly people involved in the mainstream of the family, the society as well as the state. Now it is the responsibility of the nation to give these elderly people priority in getting all civic services. Elderly people are respectable persons of the society's and they had worked for building families, society and country during the golden days of their life. Many elderly people are facing social insecurity because of financial hardship and deprivation of treatment facilities.
Happily, the present government has taken a number of programmes for the welfare of the elderly people. Old age allowance has been introduced from 1997-98 fiscal year. The number of people getting such allowance has now increased to 2.72 million from only 400,000. The amount has been raised to Tk 400 from Tk 100.
The government also enacted 'Feeding and Lodging to Parents Act, 2013' and children are bound to ensure feeding and lodging of their parents under this act. A number of organisations such as Probin Hitoishi Sangha, Centre for Rehabilitation of Elderly People, Retired Government Employees Welfare Association and Resource Integration Centre have been working for the welfare of the elderly people.
The financial institutions alongside the government and voluntary organisations, can take programmes under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the welfare of the country's elderly people who can only be recognized easily through identity cards.