4 Hrs Ago
“WE ARE starving, we need help desperately.”
This was the cry of Evans Rajpaul, 60, who said he and his wife Vitra Teelucksingh-Rajpaul, 68, are struggling even to find food to eat as they eke out an existence on her old-age pension.
Rajpaul said he had to put aside his pride and seek out Newsday to have a story done to highlight the sorry state he and his wife have found themselves in, a state that has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The couple, who live in an HDC apartment in Corinth Hill, San Fernando, said they are seeking help for food and to pay outstanding bills.
Rajpaul said, “I am starving right now, I won’t lie to you. I had knee replacement surgery on my left leg, and I have no money. My wife is sickly, and her pension is all we have to carry us through. If I could have worked, I would, but I have not been the same since that surgery.”
Rajpaul explained that owing to a work injury more than ten years ago, he became incapacitated. He was a construction worker with Agostini Industries which shut down in August 2010. Rajpaul, who was a casual worker, said he later received workmen’s compensation, but not much.
“I used most of that money to buy medication for my wife and myself. At one point both of us were hospitalised at the same time.”
Rajpaul said he had received a disability grant of $2,000 a month for the past nine years.
When he turned 60 on April 2, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services stopped the grant payment and officials ttold him he had reached the age for the National Insurance Board (NIB) to determine how much money he is entitled to under the National Insurance System (NIS).
The grant was his only source of income, he said, adding that it would resume only when his NIS claims are settled. “Social welfare staff said if I collect under $12,000, they will continue the grant up from the time they stopped,” Rajpaul said.
“If I get over that amount, the grant will resume from January next year until when I will be entitled to government pension at 65. I only have 167 contributions, so I know I will be getting small money.”
He uses a crutch to walk. In tears, he showed Newsday his impoverished living conditions. He and his wife have been married for 33 years and have no children. Throughout their lives, he said, they have battled severe hardship.
In 2013, they became homeless when their dilapidated one-room galvanised home at the M2 Ring Road in Picton, on the outskirts of San Fernando, collapsed. They lived in a car for about a month before someone offered temporary shelter. HDC later intervened and, through a rental arrangement, the couple has been living in the three-bedroom apartment. But because of financial woes, they are late on their monthly payments.
“We are surviving on my wife’s pension, to eat, pay bills and buy medications. We have to pay $800 monthly for the apartment. We do not know how long this pandemic will last and when NIS will give me my money.”
On Tuesday Rajpaul said he revisited the NIB office in San Fernando for an update on his application.
“Staff said all my documents are now in order. I have nothing to go on. I just want them to handle my affairs quickly. I depended on the grant from month to month. I have no other means to survive this pandemic.”
He said he does not like to beg but has no choice, given his situation.
“Whatever help I get, I will take. If someone wants to give something, I will take it. I have been trying to get any relief grants (in the interim) but it is a long process including me having to get documents from my previous employer.”
A soft-spoken Teelucksingh-Rajpaul said she had two major surgeries, first for the removal of a large cyst from her womb in 2008. Doctors also removed the womb. A few months later she developed a hole in herstomach.
Three years later, she underwent surgery to repair the hole, she said.
Anyone who wants to help can contact Rajpaul at 365-5065.