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Helpline for elderly citizens in Salt Lake shelved

The victims of the recent heist at AH-239 in Salt Lake ~ Mr Devdas Mukherjee (see picture) and Mrs Sumitra Mukherjee ~ lived alone in the house.

KOLKATA, 18 AUG: The Bidhannagar Municipality seems to have forgotten its promise to open a helpline for elderly citizens in the township.
The chairman of the Trinamul Congress board, shortly after coming to power in June 2010, said that the municipality was planning to introduce a 24-hour helpline for elderly citizens in Salt Lake. The system was supposed to include round-the-clock medical support, assistance for bill payments, shopping for essential goods for daily needs and assistance buying medicine. In civic body meetings, a number of board and advisory committee members suggested that an agency be engaged to carry out these tasks.
Over a year later, though, the municipality has not yet launched the helpline or prepared a database of elderly residents living alone in Salt Lake. Instead, they have been grappling with internal issues, a new chairman, and a political rift between its members.
Salt Lake has a large population of elderly citizens living alone; their children are often studying or working in other Indian cities or abroad. These elderly men and women are completely dependant on their domestic help for chores like bill payments or assistance in emergencies, like illness.
Police officers point out that in most of the cases in the township, it is found that the domestic help of the houses concerned provided information to the robbers. The victims of the recent heist at AH-239 in Salt Lake ~ Mr Devdas Mukherjee and Mrs Sumitra Mukherjee ~ lived alone in the house.
In September 2010, Bidhannagar police introduced a helpline for vulnerable residents, and was supposed to collect the names and addresses of everyone over 65 years of age and living alone in the township, to include in their database. However, the work was not completed, and no such database has been created.
“We do not know of any such helpline. How effective would a helpline be, when officers refuse to lodge complaints when we visit the police station,” said 78-year-old Mr DK Chakraborty, a resident of Karunamoyee.
Mrs Krishna Chakraborty, chairman of the municipality, said that there is an ambulance at Matrisadan, used to provide immediate medical help to elderly citizens, and that every resident has been given the ward councillor’s phone numbers. The ward councillors can be contacted 24-hours a day, she said.
“Will the councillors go to pay the bills? And are they really available 24 hours?” asked Mr Narayan Basu, chairman of the Bidhannagar Citizen Welfare Association, and also a senior citizen himself.
In a discussion between residents, police and municipality officials which was held at a city hotel yesterday, several representatives from various blocks in Salt Lake raised concerns about the security of elderly people living alone in Salt Lake, particularly their inability to contact the police during emergencies.

Soma Basu

Soma Basu

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