On Thursday, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder and trustee, Dr Zafarullah Chowdhury, called on the government to provide $1 billion in food aid from government funds to 2.5 crore poor families in the country.
He made the call at a symbolic sit-in programme, 'Lockdowney Manusher Hahakar Bondhe Ghore Ghore Khadyo Pouchaw Nagorik Pratiki Obosthan,' at the National Shaheed Minar.
Addressing the programme as its chair, Dr Zafarullah said, "The [Covid-19] situation is getting worse every day. All sorts of research has indicated that the number of poor families in the country has exceeded 2.25 crore.
"The Hon'ble Prime Minister has allocated Tk10 crore for these families, which means each family will get Tk4.25."
"What can you eat during the month of Ramadan with Tk4.25?," he asked.
Criticising the government, the Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder said, "To whom are you giving away the Tk10 crore? You're just returning the money to its owners.
He continued, "According to your [the government] announcement, you have $43 billion in funds. Provide the two and a half crore poor families with food relief worth $1 billion without thinking."
Dr Zafarullah asked politicians from all parties to join hands in collecting money from rich families and businessmen to support the poor.
"We have to stand up against these whims of the government," he added.
Among others, Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, and its Chief Coordinator Sahidullah Kaysar, Gono forum leader Reza Kibria, Bhasani Anusari Parishad Secretary-General Sheikh Rafiqul Islam Bablu and its member Jahangir Alam Mintu, Freedom Fighters' Naeem Jahangir, Ishtiaq Aziz Ulfat and Sadek Khan, Chief Coordinator of Ganasamhati Andolan, Junaid Saki, Professor Dilara Chowdhury and Professor Rehnuma Ahmed of Jahangir Nagar University, Photographer Shahidul Alam, Barrister Sadia Arman, Executive Director of Nairr Jonyo Sushason, Ruby Amatullah, and Didarul Bhuiyan of Rashtrachinta, spoke on the occasion.
Condemning the attack on rickshaw pullers and Banshkhali workers, Mahamudur Rahman Manna said, "This government has no values."
He demanded a clear outline of food aid to 45 lakh families be made public. Manna warned he will fight the government after Eid-ul-fitr if the demand is not met.
Economist Dr Reza Kibria called for allocating Tk35,000 crore to ensure food security for poor families to deal with the pandemic.
Describing the amount as 'practicable,' he urged the government to make proper use of grants received from various agencies to deal with Covid-19.
Mentioning the lockdown as 'important,' Junaid Saki said, "With all due respect, if a lockdown is to be imposed in Bangladesh, it should be done ensuring food for the people. Otherwise, it's betrayal."
Also, Shahidul Alam called upon poets, writers, and artists to break the silence and speak out regarding the situation in the country.