KLANG: Is RM200 a month enough for an elderly woman to feed herself and her husband while paying for medicine to treat a stroke?
The Selangor office of the Welfare Department apparently thinks so. Last year, it cut off a lifeline to many senior citizens who received RM300 a month from the department for the last two years in order to help make ends meet.
The department says it conducts reviews every year of its aid recipients to determine whether they are better off or whether they still require help.
Its review last year, however, has left many senior citizens, who depended on the aid, in the lurch and caught unaware that the assistance they were receiving was subject to a re-evaluation, according to a residents’ association in the working class neighbourhood of Pandamaran here. These include people like Bhuvanaswary MN Mannadiar, 74, and Paravathy Rajoo, 80, of the Pandamaran Municipal Flats here.
Bhuvanaswary gets RM200 a month from her two daughters. The 74-year-old depended almost entirely on the extra RM300 to help pay for food and medicine for her and her husband, Ramachandran MS Nair, who is 85.
In Paravathy’s case, she depended almost entirely on the RM300 from the department. Since the stipend was cut off nine months ago, she has had to rely on her neighbours for three square meals a day.
Pandamaran Flats association chairman Datchinamoorthy Daruman said another senior was forced to move out of the low-cost flat unit because she could not afford the rent after her aid, too, was cut.
“These people had been receiving aid for years from the department, but it all suddenly stopped late last year.
“They complained to me because I am the ‘village head’ who recommends to the department who should receive aid,” said Datchinamoorthy, when met by The Malaysian Insider.
He asked why the department had stopped aid to these women when their socio-economic status remained the same. As a referee for aid applicants living in the Pandamaran Flats, he said several other senior citizens had brought similar complaints to him.
Bhuvanaswary said she received RM300 a month for the past two years. She applied for the aid before the general election in May 2013 and was terminated from the programme last October. She tried to reapply for the aid in November but was rebuffed by an officer because she was already receiving RM200 from her daughters.
“The officer said ‘auntie, RM200 a month not enough, is it?’ I said how can it be enough? My husband has no pension. My daughters are housewives and they also depend on their husbands for money. I have to buy medicine every month ever since I had a stroke,” said Bhuvanaswary.
Asked to respond, a Selangor Welfare Department spokesperson told The Malaysian Insider by email that the department reviewed each case every year to determine whether recipients were still qualified. In last year’s review, the department claimed that Bhuvanaswary had not disclosed that she had two adult daughters.
“The recipient is not penniless and has a husband and children who are able to care for her,” said the spokesperson.
Bhuvanaswary admits to this, saying RM200 is not enough for her and her husband, given how expensive food is these days.
The department has also confirmed receiving an application from Bhuvanaswary to renew the aid and is studying it.
Paravathy, on the other hand, said the stipend stopped nine months ago after she received it every month for one year. “Sometimes one of my daughters comes to visit me. She brings food. She gives me RM10 to RM20 per visit. But it isn’t enough. I have to go for check-ups at the hospital because my eyesight is bad.
Like Bhuvanaswary, Paravathy hopes her case will be reconsidered by the department. The Malaysian Insider was unable to contact the Selangor Welfare Department to get an update on Paravathy’s case. — The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 5, 2015.