Relief provided by the government to mitigate sufferings of the marginalised and low-income groups during the ongoing general holidays in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has not reached all deserving people.
Many people have received the relief only once which is not sufficient to survive the crisis period while some said to have got it several times. But many have claimed they have got nothing from the government.
Meanwhile, many areas have seen a political influence in distributing the aid. Some areas have also seen relief embezzlement and misappropriation especially by the ruling party leaders, 49 of whom have so far been suspended.
Till April 30, the disaster management and relief ministry allocated 123,867 tonnes of rice in relief for 64 districts.
According to our estimate, nearly 2.5 crore people have been served with the rice only once provided that each relief packet contained 5kg rice on an average. Beyond this, around 1.50 crore more people are getting financial aid under social safety net programmes.
The country has 6 crore poor people while a total 4 crore have received humanitarian assistance, meaning that about 40 percent or 2 crore still remain beyond the relief facilities.
33% low-income people got relief in Chattogram
According to a list by the councillors of Chattogram City Corporation, there are around six lakh low-income people in the port city, among whom nearly 2 lakh (33 percent) received the government relief.
But, Consumers Association of Bangladesh criticised the list, saying it is unbelievable that a city with over 60 lakh people has only six lakh low-income people.
Najer Hossain, central vice president of the association, said the city has at least 30 lakh low-income and deserving people to get the aid. "As we do not have any database, we have failed to ensure aid for every deserving person."
During a visit to a number of colonies in the city, The Business Standard found most of them are yet to receive any government aid.
Poor residents at the city's Burma colony, Railways colony and Baluchora's Mozaffor colony said they did not get any relief.
The government allocated 3,438 tonnes of rice for Chattogram district, of which 990 tonnes were allocated for 14 lakh slum dwellers.
But, stakeholders said it is not possible to cover all deserving people with this amount of food.
No voter, no relief in Sylhet!
Our Sylhet correspondent found allegations that some public representatives in the district are not giving any relief to those who are not local voters.
"I am from Rangpur but residing here [in Sylhet]. As I am not a voter of Sylhet, I have not received any aid from the local councillor," said Koyes Ahmed, a day labourer residing in the city's Modhusohid area.
City Mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury acknowledged that he also received similar allegations and instructed all concerned to provide relief to all deserving people.
Abdur Rakib Tuhin, councillor of Ward 21, was alleged that he gave government relief to his associates instead of the really deserving people. As a result, locals demonstrated against him.
He however claimed that his ward has a demand of 30 tonnes of rice whereas he received only eight tonnes. "So, it was impossible for me to deliver aid to every deserving person."
Relief insufficient in Rajshahi
According to available data, Rajshahi district has at least 30 lakh people. Among them, 20 lakh are farmers but only three lakh of them are in the government's aid net.
Aminul Hoq, an officer of the District Relief and Disaster Management office, said, "Primarily we targeted 46 percent people in the relief network. Now we decided to cover 60 percent of the people."
A number of city people demanded emergency relief as they were starving. Many slum-dwellers said they received 5kg rice only once in the last five weeks.
Allegation of irregularities in Barishal
In Barishal, allegations are rife about political interference by several public representatives in the relief distribution.
Many alleged they did not receive any relief while some said they received it in a less amount. There is also an allegation of favouritism in preparing the list of beneficiaries.
Recently, some people demonstrated, claiming that they were not receiving any relief because they were supporters of the BNP. Later, the local administration intervened and gave food assistance to them.
Nur Alam Serniabot, chairman of Khanjapur Union Parishad of Gouronodi upazila, said they failed to give relief to all due to a shortage.
The upazila has got 108 tonnes of rice for distribution from which only 35 tonnes have been deliverKhulna requests proper relief distribution
Local people in Khulna alleged that really deserving people are not getting the relief due to mismanagement and lack of proper distribution.
It was alleged that some people received the aid twice or even thrice while many did not get it only once.
Local public representatives claimed that the relief supply to them was not sufficient.
Officials concerned said the government, from the very first day of the general holidays, was in the field with the relief for the vulnerable groups, focusing on those who were out of the social safety net.
Meanwhile, it has prepared a list of 50 lakh families who were not covered in the safety net. In May and June, the government will provide 20kg rice aid to these families each.
Besides, they will also be given cash aid through mobile financial services or bank accounts to enable them to buy daily essentials.
Md Shah Kamal, senior secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, said, "Around 1.25 crore families across the country need assistance.
"Of these, 50 lakh families get assistance under the social safety net while 10.40 lakh under the VGB and a few lakh others, including fishermen, receive government assistance. Besides these, 50 lakh more families will get the relief assistance."