The budget allocation for the social safety of char people is inadequate and they should be allocated 20% of the social safety allowance budget, say experts.
At a virtual meeting organised by the National Char Alliance on Tuesday, the former governor of the Bangladesh Bank and the founder chairman of the National Char Alliance, Dr Atiur Rahman, said the number of people living in chars in the country is about 70 lakh.
"Of the Tk100,000 crore allocated for social safety, only Tk217 crore has been allocated for the char people. With that, only 94,000 char people will get money, which is very insufficient."
He said 20% of the social safety allowance needs to be allocated for the char people.
"Notably, as part of the additional focus on helping marginalised people, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has proposed increasing the social safety allocation to Tk107,614 crore in the budget for 2021-22 fiscal year," he said.
He said a specialised government institution like the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) needs to be established for the development of char people.
Zayed Iqbal Khan, general secretary of the Bangladesh Krishak Federation, said even the inadequate budget allocation for char people remains unspent every year as there is no organisation to direct and monitor the spending.
Speaking as the chief guest at the meeting, Abul Kalam Azad, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Planning, said many ministries cannot spend their budget allocations properly.
He said many ministries cannot ensure accountability and transparency in spending their budget allocations. "It is a matter of great sorrow. In fact, we lack skilled manpower."
Azad said, "I am a child of the char region. I used to go to school swimming across the river. I understand the plight of people in the char regions."
The lawmaker said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is very sincere in the development of poor people in char regions. "We must take into account the problems existing in the chars. We have to discuss the problems with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Planning to expedite the development of the char people," he said.
Speaking as special guest, lawmaker Shamim Haider Patwari said the budget allocation for char regions should be increased. She said allowances should be provided to the char people during the three months of the year when the chars go under water and that "a separate paragraph needs to be written in the budget about the char regions."
Dr Atiur Rahman presided over the views-exchange meeting which was also addressed by Practical Action Bangladesh Country Director, Dr Shawkat Ara Begum, and Water Aid Bangladesh Director (Policy and Research), Partho Hafez Sheikh. The National Char Alliance Member Secretary, Zahid Rahman, conducted the meeting.