Relief allocations should be based on the proportion of damage sustained, instead of distributing it on the basis of population, said participants in a discussion Monday.
They made the remark at a virtual dialogue "Relief and Agricultural Incentives to tackle Corona and Flood: Effectiveness of Government Services," organised jointly by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Oxfam in Bangladesh.
The event is part of the ongoing European Union-funded Participation of Public Oriented Organizations in Establishing Good Governance project.
Manab Mukti Sangstha of Sirajganj and Citizens Platform on SDG Achievement, Bangladesh co-organised the event.
CPD Senior Research Associate Muntasir Kamal presented a primary evaluation report on the effectiveness of the government's flood relief and agricultural incentives programmes, in Sirajganj district, to tackle the novel coronavirus and floods.
He said, "In Sirajganj, the average poverty rate is 36%. On the one hand, there is an ongoing pandemic, and on the other, during 12-21 July, about 51% of the total land in the district was flooded. So, the farmers of this area are living in misery. Several times their crops have been damaged. Farmers have not received incentives in proportion to their losses."
Muntasir Kamal said, "Despite the relatively low poverty rate in the Sirajganj Sadar and Ullapara upazilas, these two upazilas are ahead in terms of relief allocation. Although the poverty rate is highest in Chauhali upazila, it lags behind in relief allocation. This has happened because relief was allocated here on the basis of population."
He said the allocation of relief needs to be conducted on the basis of losses and not on the basis of population size.
Admitting that the allocated relief is inadequate, Sirajganj 2 MP Prof Md Habibe Millat said, "The government has helped five million people during the novel coronavirus period. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is trying. Many of our affected populations have not received relief, no one can deny it. The allowances that are being given, including the old age allowance, are less than the amount needed. The government is increasing the amount of allowance day by day."
According to the latest data of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the poverty rate in the country stood at 20.5% at the end of 2018-19 fiscal year. According to CPD, the poverty rate has risen to 35% in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Sirajganj 1 MP Tanvir Shakil Joy said, "Our northern region is the most vulnerable region. The region has been flooded five times this year. Therefore, it is necessary to allocate relief to the people of the area who have suffered the most."
Mostafizur Rahman, a special fellow of CPD, said, "Our resources are limited but our demand is high. So, we have to take steps to distribute relief with caution. Steps must be taken to ensure that it is in the hands of the real victims. Today various issues of Sirajganj have been discussed. The mobile network is problematic in the char areas of the district. As a result, people are facing communication problems in the area."
Habibullah Bahar, director of the Manma Mukti Sangstha, said separate plans need to be made for the people of the char region. The various incentives of the government need to be allocated on the basis of loss and poverty, not on the basis of population.
According to the evaluation report, about 1,18,000 families were stranded in 64 unions of seven upazilas of Sirajganj during the floods, with 5,03,795 persons directly affected. About 45% of the income of the people of Sirajganj comes from self-employment and daily wages in the agricultural sector, from those who have suffered extensive damage during the floods.
According to the report, 3,620 metric tonnes of rice were allocated to Sirajganj district this year to address the pandemic crisis. Of the allocation, 3,164.5 metric tonnes were distributed. Out of a Tk1,30,00,000 cash allocation, Tk1,23,00,000 has been distributed.
Oxfam in Bangladesh's Economic Inclusion and Head of Justice Shoaib Iftekhar delivered the welcome address at the event.