Elderly couples need to be looked after. In the absence of their near and dear ones,they can rely on Banipada Saha. Mouparna Bandyopadhyay takes a look
The man had once arrested Sanjay Gandhi in the famous Kissa Kursi Ka case; today he is a source of support to innumerable elderly couples in Salt Lake. Banipada Saha has many accolades attached to his name. He was a serving police officer,a writer,a columnist and now a social worker.
Saha migrated from Bangladesh when he was a student in the seventh standard. Son of a nationalistic leader in Bangladesh,he joined the IPS in the Orissa cadre in 1963. He was a commanding officer in the 1971 Bangladesh War as part of the BSF and also served in the CBI for more than six years during the Emergency. During his service he also completed his doctoral degree and a D Lit to boot.
After his retirement as DGP in 1997,he settled down in Salt Lake,Kolkata and came up with a novel idea that keeps him busy and going as well.
I went to England on an official work and there I realised that the elderly in their society were very secure and comfortable unlike here where most elderly couples are lonely and have no one to take care of them, says Saha. He realised that there were many couples in Kolkata whose children had settled down abroad and the elderly were facing problems even with their everyday errands.
Nine years ago he founded Sanjivani,an organisation to help the elderly people. It is a simple format. Elderly couples can become a member of Sanjivani for as little as Rs 200 per month. Sanjivani takes care of all their needs.
Our people pay their taxes,electric and telephone bills,take them to the doctor and also give them psychological support at times, explains Saha. He adds that such help becomes critical as most of the members are between the age group of 70-82 years.
At present he has around 50 members and has employed two more,Anju Mukherjee and Subhash Pradhan.
I have been with this organisation for the past 11 years. I think Sahas training in the police has helped as he often attends desperate calls in late hours and drives the patients to the hospital himself, says Mukherjee.
He also organises a free homoeopathic camp every Saturday evening. Due to old age most of the patients suffer from chronic ailments like stomach problems,cold,arthritis etc, says Dr Sukla Chatterjee,the doctor at the camp.
Sahas wife Ashima has always supported him in his endeavour. She has full knowledge of every member and when I am away,she takes charge of the organisation. Saha has three daughters all of whom are married and have settled out of Kolkata. Initially people were apprehensive about the whole initiative. Gradually they have begun to trust me. Even their children,who are settled abroad,keep in touch with me, he says.
I do it out of sheer goodwill because apart from the membership fees we do not charge anything. I have even stayed up all night to help people. But I feel hurt when people think that I am running a business, Saha adds.