Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today announced to bring 50 lakh more poor people under the government's ration card facilities to provide them with rice at Taka 10 per kilogram to mitigate their sufferings created in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
"Currently, 50 lakh extreme poor and distressed people are getting rice at Tk10 per kg under the government's ration card facilities. We've taken a decision to bring 50 lakh more such people under the facilities to minimise their hardship in the current situation that has emerged due to the Covid-19 outbreak," she said.
The prime minister made the announcement in her introductory speech while interacting with the public representatives and officials of nine districts of Dhaka division on the present coronavirus situation, through a videoconference from her official Ganabhaban residence here this morning.
Sheikh Hasina said in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the government started selling rice at Tk10 per kg among the poor and distressed people who have no ration cards.
"But problems are being created for distributing rice (in this way) and we've postponed the programme for the time being as some incidents happened regarding it," she said.
The premier added: "So, we've directed the authorities concerned to prepare a list of 50 lakh poor and distressed people who will be brought under the new ration card facilities by excluding those having ration cards and are already getting benefits of social safety net programmes."
In this connection, Sheikh Hasina asked the authorities concerned to make the list of those people who truly need assistance in this critical time.
The prime minister particularly asked the public representatives to take prompt measures to prepare a list of genuine needy people, irrespective of their political affiliations, to ensure that everyone gets relief.
"Form committees at the grassroots level to prepare a list of truly needy people irrespective of their political affiliations to ensure that everyone gets relief as the Awami League has been working for the welfare of all," she said.
Sheikh Hasina, also the Awami League president, said she has already instructed the party leaders and workers to form relief committees up to the ward-level to find out the genuine distressed people and reach succors to their houses.
Stressing the need for ensuring cent percent accountability in preparing the list, she said: "Make sure that none of the needy people remains out of the list and realize whatever I am saying and act accordingly."
Reiterating her strong warning against corruption and irregularities in relief distribution, Sheikh Hasina directed the administration and law enforcement agencies to remain alert about it.
"It'll have to be ensured that the succors, whether government or private, reach the right persons. We'll not tolerate any corruption and irregularities in the distribution of relief materials," she said.
The premier said the government is providing food assistance to the people who are staying home after being jobless in this crisis.
"But we don't tolerate anybody to make irregularities in this regard and we're taking actions instantly if such incidents happen," she said.
Sheikh Hasina, however, said it was proved after investigations into some irregularities that some elements are staging such incidents to victimise others.
"It's not expected during this disaster, rather assistance will have to be provided to all," she said.
Urging all concerned to work with utmost sincerity in this critical time, the prime minister said 40 persons have so far been punished, while dealership and security money of 11 persons forfeited for committing irregularities and graft in relief and OMS rice distribution.
The prime minister said the people, especially day labourers, farmers, workers, small traders and even the lower middle income people are passing their days in severe hardship as everything has stopped now due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Keeping their sufferings in our mind, we've announced several incentive packages worth over Taka one lakh crore, and through the packages, we've started extending assistance to the people of all classes and professions," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said 250 crore people of the world remain confined to their houses and their normal life is being hampered severely for the pandemic.
"Due to the invisible virus, the entire world got stagnant at one place and it has put adverse impacts on the world economy," she said.
The prime minister said the international organisations including the United Nations forecast that the world may experience severe economic recession due to the pandemic and even famine could happen.
"Against this backdrop, we'll have to take steps to save the people and the country from the possible recession or famine, and keeping this in mind, we've already declared a set of stimulus packages of over Tk one lakh crore and started their execution," she said.
"These packages are not for only the current period … rather we're planning to protect the people from economic meltdown in the next three fiscal years," she said.
The prime minister extended her heartfelt thanks to doctors, nurses, health workers, public representative, officials and employees of the administration, members of the armed forces, law enforcement agencies and BGB for standing beside the people with utmost sincerity in this critical time.
She said the health professionals including physicians and nurses are providing healthcare services to the people risking their lives. "I extend my sincere thanks to all as they have stood beside the nation in its critical time," she said.
Sheikh Hasina also thanked the well-off people and government and non-government organisations for coming forward to the help of the distressed humanity.
Pointing out that the nine districts of Dhaka division are important as 70 percent of total COVID cases were detected in these districts, the prime minister urged all to pray to Allah so that the people of the country get rid of the onslaught of the fatal disease.
"I hope that everybody stays well and healthy and tries to keep others living your locality healthy … this situation must be over and liveliness must return and we'll advance further," she said.