The closed old age-home at Sakchi on Monday. (Bhola Prasad)
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be…
These optimistic lines from Robert Browning’s philosophical poem Rabbi Ben Ezra are lost on an uncaring East Singhbhum administration.
A district where, according to conservative estimates, one in every 10 person is above 60 years old and many of them spend nights under passenger sheds or pavements, a state-owned home for senior citizens remains under lock and key for more than six years.
The district wing of the state social welfare department had constructed the single-storey shelter for the destitute elderly in Sakchi, Jamshedpur, in March 2006. Built at a cost of Rs 53.56 lakh on an acre right next to MGM Medical College and Hospital, the 19-room old-age home boasted provisions for 38 inmates. It also has two halls, a kitchen and a boundary wall — everything to give the senior citizens a safe and secure life.
But, despite the project being so promising, the district administration has not been able to find a “suitable” non-government organisation to run the home.
The Singhbhum Kendriya Varishta Nagrik Samiti — an organisation floated by the elderly in the steel city — has expressed serious concern over this government home being inaccessible to the abandoned elderly.
Samiti president Shiv Pujan Singh accused the state and district administration of sheer callousness in implementing central directives.
“According to Government of India rules, every district must have an old-age home. Unfortunately in the Kolhan region, there is just one for the twin districts of Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan. And this too never opened doors to the elderly on the lame pretext that there is no voluntary organisation to run the home,” he said.
He added that they had been pursuing the matter with the district welfare department since 2006, but in vain. “The department only claimed that it had carried out the tender process three times, but no NGO fulfilled the eligibility criteria of having adequate experience in running an old-age home. So, the tender had to be cancelled every time.”
The Samiti lodged a complaint with deputy development commissioner Dadan Choubey in the past and also wrote to Jamshedpur West MLA Banna Gupta and local MP Ajoy Kumar in January this year. But, the home is yet to open doors.
“We have more than 20 senior citizens who have no one to look after them. They need shelter. We can only earnestly hope the shelter starts functioning at the earliest,” Singh said.
District social welfare officer Virender Kumar Singh conceded that they were six years behind schedule, but claimed that the old-age home would open sometime this month.
“We have decided that the shelter will be run by Brahmakumaris, a spiritual organisation. There is only some minor repair work going on, but it will be completed soon. After that, we will inaugurated the home by this month,” he promised.
Do you think the old-age home will ever open? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org