The Retired Armed Forces Officers’ Welfare Association (RAOWA) is a purely non-political organization dedicated to welfare of the retired armed forces officers and committed to foster a spirit of cooperation, unity and brotherhood among the members to enable them to make positive efforts, individually and collectively, for proper rehabilitation in the post service retired life, said Major M. Taneem Hasan (Retd), Chairman of RAOWA, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.
Recalling the contributions of the founding fathers of RAOWA, the Chairman said that the initiative of the organization was started in the mid-sixties and through passing over a long traversed way, finally the organization of RAOWA came into being on 17th July 1984 with the registraton from the Department of Social Welfare of the Government of Bangladesh.
In this context, he informed that the construction of the three-storied building housing the club facilities was completed in mid 1991 and the RAOWA was formally opened on the 4th October 1991. He mentioned that the construction of the 12-storied new complex started in 2008 and likely to be completed this year.
Terming the new complex as the dream project of RAOWA members, the Chairman informed that the project has been planned to have a 12-storied building with two basements, having 03 conventional halls, Hall-1, Hall-2 and Hall-3 with the capacity of 1000, 400 and 200 persons respectively at the level-2 and 3, along with other utility services available at the level 4 and 5 like swimming pool, gym, library, beverage room, restaurant, children play area. He also added that 1,34,000 sqft rental space remains available from the level 6 to 12.
Major Taneem in his concluding message also urged all the retired armed forces officers to be member of RAOWA and take the advantage of its facilities and be united to serve the nation when called for.
In an exclusive interview, the learned Chairman replied to several questions, covering the history, activities, facilities, problems, potentials, achievements and future plans of RAOWA. His deliberations are quite excellent, informative and interesting as well. We believe the readers and all others concerned with RAOWA will find in it. The excerpts of his valuable interview are presented here for The Guardian readers at home and abroad:
The Guardian: Please give us a short introduction to the founding history of Retired Armed Forces Officers’ Welfare Association (RAOWA) through which it has come to its present dignified position?
Chairman: After the independence of the country there was a mass retirement of the armed forces, creating economic hardship for them. Because of limited employment opportunity outside, the retired officers were passing their days in acute hardship. To mitigate their sufferings, some enthusiastic army officers decided to form an association for the overall welfare of the retired officers. During mid sixties an organization with the name of Defence Officers’ (Retired) Association with its abbreviated name DORA was formed under the chairmanship of late Major General Abdul Majid.
During 1974 a few retired officers from the armed forces formed another welfare association with the name of Ex-Defence Officers’ Association or EDA. Lt. Col. Hesaumuddin Ahmed became the chairman of this association. Later, EDA was merged with DORA and a new organization came into being in the name of Retired Armed Forces Officers’ Welfare Association, in abbreviation called RAOWA. Lt General Khuaja Wasiuddin became the first chairman and Capt M A Hakim became the founder Secretary General.
A special general meeting was held on the 18th June 1982 and the draft constitution of RAOWA was approved. Lt. Col. QAFM Raquib drafted the constitution on the request of EC. The name of the association was changed to “Retired Armed Forces Officers Welfare Association” through an amendment in 1984 to broaden the membership from the three services; that is from Army, Navy and Air Force.
The association was registered with the Social Welfare Directorate of the government on the 17th July 1984. The early organizers realized that RAOWA needed a piece of land to build the RAOWA complex “a second home” for the retired armed forces officers. Finally, Lt. General HM Ershad, the then president and supreme commander, allotted 3.9 acres of land in two phases for building the RAOWA complex.
The construction of the three-storied building housing the club facilities was completed in mid 1991 and the RAOWA was formally opened on the 4th October 1991. The construction of the 12-storied new complex started in 2008 and likely to be completed this year.
The Guardian: In this context, please discuss the aims and objectives of RAOWA and say how far the RAOWA authorities have been able to implement its aims and objectives in true sense?
Chairman: The RAOWA is a purely non-political organization dedicated to welfare of the retired armed forces officers. The aims and objectives of the association for which it is established are:
a. To organize and form a common forum of retired armed forces officers and foster a spirit of cooperation, unity and brotherhood among them to enable to make positive efforts, individually and collectively for proper rehabilitation in the post service retired life.
b. To inculcate a spirit of self-help, fraternity and mutual cooperation among its members, without any distinction so as to enable the RAOWA to establish, maintain and run club, hostels and other institutions for the mutual benefit of its members in particular and other retired service personnel in general.
c. To assist dependents of deceased ex/retired armed forces officers in particular and ex-service personnel in general, in their rehabilitation.
d. To provide mutual help to members including financial help if fund position permits.
e. To perpetuate the memory of those who laid down their lives in the services of the country and the nation and to safeguard the interest of the families of those persons.
f. To try to remove genuine grievances and hardships of members of RAOWA in particular and other ex-service personnel in general so that their conditions are ameliorated.
g. To create established opinion that the maintenance of disabled Ex-Retired Officers and other ex-service personnel and their welfare and that of their families is a national obligation.
h. To endeavor and obtain accepted government recognition of the principle that ex-servicemen in general and retired armed forces officers in particular deserve due attention to receive fair treatment in all matters relating to finding and provisioning of employment after the release/retirement within the shortest possible time.
I. To provide a forum to the members for occasional social get-together, and recreational facilities for members and their families and to arrange and organize such functions.
j. To guide and inspire suitable young men for seeking a promising career in the Defence Services and with that end in view, assist the government authorities where necessary in recruitment and the matters in the event of national emergency.
k. To establish, organize, maintain and run institutions like libraries, reading rooms, recreational grounds and other such facilities for the benefit of members.
l. To do all or other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above objectives or any of them and as deemed fit by the executive committee, and it is hereby declared that the aims and objectives as specified in the proceeding sub-clauses shall in no way limit or restrict by reference to the terms of any other paragraph or the name of RAOWA.
The Guardian: As a giant association of three powerful services, would you please reflect the present institutional structure and capacity of RAOWA and also give us a brief idea about the administration system of this huge organization?
Chairman: The association is being run by the 15 member executive committee (EC) elected on alternate years for a duration of 2 years. The EC is headed by the chairman and assisted by other 14 EC members. The EC meets regularly once a month and on various issues as per agenda.
The EC takes decision after detail discussion in the EC meeting. The RAOWA secretariat performs the official jobs and makes all official correspondences. The GM who is the senior most employer of RAOWA looks after the routine administration of RAOWA.
The EC holds annual general meeting regularly in the end of December where all points raised by the honourable members are discussed and their queries are answered. The EC places the yearly budget in AGM for approval also.
The Guardian: In this context, would you say who can be a member of RAOWA or what conditions are to be fulfilled to be a RAOWA member and what facilities are available in RAOWA for a member?
Chairman: Armed forces officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force can be a member of the association after their retirement, submitting an application with other necessary papers and depositing Tk 10,000 (Ten Thousand Only). A RAOWA member can avail the following facilities:
a. Can use the card, beverage, billiard and library rooms and the restaurants. On future swimming pool will be available.
b. Can use the convention halls at concession rate.
c. Can participate in the various events and competition arranged throughout the year as per the event calendar of the association.
The Guardian: Please mention the total number of members till to date and the categories of members.
Chairman: The total members of RAOWA till preparing this report are 3061 and the number is increasing every month. There are three types of member. They are:
Special Member (wife of deceased member).
The Guardian: In this context, would you inform us how the executive committee of RAOWA is formed?
Chairman: The 15 member executive committee of RAOWA is formed through a general election held annually in the month of December.
The Guardian: And please discuss the powers and functions of the executive committee?
Chairman: The EC shall meet at least once in a month at such time and place as the chairman/secretary general may decide. The secretary general shall circulate the agenda at least seven days in advance. In case of emergency, a meeting may be called as directed by the chairman with at least 24 hours notice. Seven members present shall form a quorum.
The powers and duties of the executive committee shall be:
a. To deal with all matters relating to administration, membership, publicity and propaganda, etc. and all matters of routine nature and also to make recommendation to the general body in matters thought to be desirable.
b. To deal with financial matters of routine nature within the purview of the budget.
c. To examine, approve and make recommendations on the budget, the monthly cash accounts, the annual report, the annual accounts and the balance sheet, as per rules and bye-laws and negotiable instruments and documents, before their submission to the general body meeting or the annual/extra-ordinary general meeting.
d. To appoint, suspend, terminate and dismiss any employee of the association.
e. Such other powers and duties as may be delegated to it by the general body.
f. To collect, manage and disburse funds for all or any of the aims and objectives of the association.
g. To open and operate banking accounts (including current fixed deposits, investments and savings) with any scheduled banks and or post offices, in the name of the association. All such accounts shall be operated by the joint signatures of any two from amongst chairman, secretary general and the treasurer.
h. To invest such funds as may be considered over and above the immediate needs in securities permitted under the Trust Act. In fixed deposits in post office savings bank, or in postal certificates or all other government sponsored certificates as considered proper.
j. To borrow with or without interest against securities and/or deposit any sum which may at any time be required to augment the current account or to meet any emergency and to dispose of any fixed deposits, securities or postal certificates as may be thought proper.
k. To raise funds/grants/loan with or without interest or otherwise from government, local authorities, banks or other persons for the association in case of emergency to fulfil its aims and objectives.
l. To purchase, own, take on lease or otherwise, acquire any buildings or lands for the purposes of the association.
m. To manage, sell, lease, transfer or otherwise deal with all or any of the moveable or immoveable property of the association.
n. To admit life, ordinary and honorary members and affiliate any institution or society, or amalgamate or cooperate with any institution or society having objectives, similar to those of the association.
o. To appoint committees/sub-committees from amongst its members or from the general members of the association and delegate to them or any of them such functions as may be deemed proper in accordance with the rules.
p. To appoint honorary or paid chartered/registered accountants as auditors who may as often as they consider necessary audit the accounts of the association. The appointment of auditor shall be subject to the approval of the general body.
q. To appoint, any member to represent the association in any conference or assembly of ex-servicemen abroad and if necessary, to meet his expenses of travel and stay in full or in part thereof.
r. To authorize any member or any other person, to represent the association in legal proceeding with power to engage, council, to conduct such proceeding on behalf of the Association either in an honorary or paid capacity, and to do all such acts as may be necessary for the prosecution of the case including power to compromise, and to pay costs, charges, expenses of and incidental to any of the aforesaid matters and things.
s. The executive committee shall be answerable to the general body for its actions and decision and shall not be required to give reasons for its actions and decisions to any individual member or affiliated organizations.
The Guardian: It is learnt that under executive committee there are a number of special and sub-committees. Please tell us the names and functions of all those committees?
Chairman: The EC is formed with 15 executive members. There are 13 sub-committees headed by one EC member responsible for particular service. Each sub-committee is comprised of nine members co-opted from the general members. The 13 sub-committees are as follows:
a. Discipline Sub-Cmmittee.
b. Family Welfare Scheme (FWS) Sub Committee.
c. Purchase Sub Committee.
d. Development Sub-Committee.
e. Beverage Sub-Committee.
f Cultural and Entertainment Sub-committee.
g Security Sub-committee.
h. Recruitment Sub-committee.
j Catering, Food and Bakery Sub-Committee.
k. Tombola/Housie Sub-Committee.
l. Library, Publication and Media Sub-Committee.
m. Games and Sports Sub-Committee.
n. IT Sub-Committee.
The Guardian: Would you discuss what facilities for entertainment, sports and cultural programmes are available under the network of RAOWA for its members and others involved with RAOWA?
Chairman: Social and cultural programmes such as picnic and cultural evenings and seminars on health care are being organized as per the calendar of event for the members and their family members with a view to provide recreational facilities and enhance social interaction and cooperation among the members.
The Guardian: Would you please tell us what is the ‘Full Pensioning Benefit’ of the RAOWA and who are able to get it?
Chairman: There is no pension given to RAOWA members from RAOWA. Full pension benefit is given to armed forces officers on completion of their full services by the government.
The Guardian: Would you tell us something about “RAOWA Family Scheme” and also inform us about its present state?
Chairman: The Family Welfare Scheme (FWS) is very popular among the RAOWA members. Presently it is the number one welfare service being provided by this association. Each member can become eligible for this scheme after depositing Tk 1000.00 (One thousand only) while becoming a RAOWA member.
Later, the member will have to pay the same amount at the end of each year to keep the scheme valid. It is like a life insurance policy with a very small premium (Tk 1000.00 annually). If a member passes away, his/her family members will be given Tk 1,00,000.00 (one lac only) immediately to meet the burial expenses of the deceased member from this scheme.
The Guardian: Would you also inform us about the progress of the RAOWA Complex Project?
Chairman: RAOWA Complex, the dream project of RAOWA commenced on 03 November 2008. The project has been planned to have a 12-storied building with two basements. The RAOWA Complex is having 03 (three) conventional halls, Hall-1, Hall-2 and Hall-3 with the capacity of 1000, 400 and 200 persons respectively at the level-2 and 3. Other RAOWA utility services will be available soon at the level 4 and 5 like swimming pool, gym, library, beverage room, restaurant, children play area etc.
Besides, 1,34,000 sqft rental space is available from the level 6 to 12. The construction of the structural work is almost completed. The finishing work like the glass curtain, files work, electrical fittings, etc. will be implemented. It is expected that the building will be completed by December 2014. Three convention halls with capacity of 1000, 400 and 200 have been commissioned on 1st December 2013. Members get concession rate if they want to do any function.
The Guardian: In this context, would you discuss the various socio-economic, welfare and humanitarian activities of RAOWA?
Chairman: RAOWA is socio-economic welfare organization, undertaking the following welfare and humanitarian services:
a. Arranging cultural programmes on the occasion of Pohela Baishakh, Nazrul and Rabindra Joyanti, picnic, Veteran’s Day, annual picnic, seminars on medical care, distribution of relief on natural and other disasters. This association collects winter clothes from the members and distributes the same to the needy regularly. The association distributed Tk 10,00,000.00 (ten lakh) to the victims of Rana Plaza last year.
The Guardian: It is learnt that the RAOWA authorities sometimes arrange seminars and special programmes on different socio-economic aspects of life and society and also on national significant events. Would you tell us something about this and the impacts of all these seminars on Bangladesh?
Chairman: Besides the above mentioned programmes I’ve already mentioned in reply to your previous question, RAOWA is also arranging the following events having national significance throughout the year on regular basis.
a. Shaheed Dibosh and International Mother Language Day.
b. Commemoration of BDR Carnage.
c. Independence and National Day and Victory Day.
d. Internal Veteran’s Day.
e. New year’s Eve.
f. Book fair for the RAOWA members and their family and serving armed forces officers.
The Guardian: It is also learnt that RAOWA has various publications. Please inform us about those publications and their utilities.
Chairman: RAOWA is bringing out a quarterly bilingual magazine named “Mirror” with contributions from the members, their spouses and children. Besides this, we are publishing an annual soveniour covering the programmes and events arranged in RAOWA round the year.
The Guardian: Would you please reflect the present status and facilities of RAOWA Club and also say who its users are?
Chairman: At present RAOWA remains busy throughout the year with the various socio cultural programme for the wellbeing and entertainment of its members. The members, their relatives, friends and acquaintances are the users of its existing facilities.
The Guardian: Would you inform us about the sources of fund for running large activities as well as implementing huge development programmes of RAOWA?
Chairman: The association raises fund for its purpose by any of the following means or in any other lawful manners as the EC may decide.
a. Subscription from members and affiliated societies.
b. Approach the government and the three services.
c. Approach the general public and other sources for contribution.
d. Income from the hall rent, service charge, restaurants, Beverage and card room.
e. Donations and gifts.
The Guardian: Would you discuss the interactions of RAOWA with the Bangladesh Army, the Navy, the Air Force and other concerned public and private organizations working in the country and also say what relevant cooperation RAOWA gains from them?
Chairman: The association maintains close relation with the 3 services and other associations and clubs. We invite serving officers from the 3 services on different entertainment programmes. We are also receiving active support and cooperation from the services in the form of loan, transportation, venue, etc.
The Guardian: Would you inform us about income and expenditure, assets and liabilities of RAOWA?
Chairman: The income of RAOWA mainly comes from the contributions received from the 2730 members and also from the penting out the facilities, restaurants, bakery bar and card rooms, etc. The existing building and the new complex are the two main assets of RAOWA.
The Guardian: Would you please disclose the problems and potentials of RAOWA?
Chairman: The contribution received from the RAOWA member is not sufficient to meet the routine expenditure of RAOWA. The contribution can not be increased over night due to the welfare nature of this association.
We have a wide vision of providing welfare to the members. Because of fund constraints some of the vision will be delayed. Recently we got loans from the 3 services and private banks to complete the ongoing RAOWA complex. When it is completed we will have sufficient fund for implementing all projects for the wellbeing of its members.
The Guardian: Keeping this in mind, would you say what further strategies and action-plans you are thinking to take for meeting the growing demand of RAOWA in future?
Chairman: Action-plans and further strategies will depend on the flow of fund. We have a plan to convert the existing RAOWA building into a motel for the members visiting Dhaka from outside.
Besides this, we have a plan to convert some floors for the old members, who have none nearby to look after them. The old Home or Provinnibash will be equipped with nursing facilities, physiotherapy, medical check-up and other facilities as deemed necessary.
The Guardian: In the end, would you please give your valuable message for your later generation armed forces officers?
Chairman: Our message to all retired armed forces officers is “be a member of RAOWA and take the advantage of its facilities and be united to serve the nation when called for”.