Cash aid for the jobless: A tragedy of errors
Around 23 lakh people, who were enlisted to get the cash assistance of Tk2,500 each from the government before Eid-ul-Fitr but did not get the money, are hoping to get the aid before Eid-ul-Azha
Restaurant worker Nurul Amin has been without a job since March. His five-member family is living in South Pahartoli of Chattogram city in hardship. He was supposed to get Tk2,500 under an incentive package offered by the government to those who lost their living due to pandemic-induced shutdown.
But Nurul Amin did not get it, nor did Syed Noor Begum of Hathazari upazila.
Noor Begum had her name on the list prepared for the Eid gift. "But I didn't get the money as my NID does not have my mobile number," she said.
Many names were not included, while many others were dropped due to such errors as this.
Rickshaw-puller Md Rubel of Kosba and physically challenged Taslima of Bijoynagar upazila of Brahmanbaria failed to convince the union parishad chairmen to get their names on the list.
Newspaper hawker Rubel in the district town managed to get enrolled, but was yet to get the Eid gift.
Abu Raihan of Phulbaria upazila in Mymensingh alleged that UP chairmen-members included the names of their "own people" on the list.
It would be better if there was a system allowing individuals directly to apply for the assistance, he felt.
These individuals do not have access to officials to know whether they would get the money and when.
When approached by our correspondents, upazila and district officials made only formal statements.
In Chattogram, 1.80 lakh people were enlisted. One third of them have got the aid, according to Sajib Kumar Chakraborty, the district's relief and rehabilitation officer. The corrected list was to be sent to the ministry by July 7, he said.
Kosba Upazila Nirbahi Officer Masud ul Alam said they applied the same criteria for the listing of beneficiaries as all over the country.
Sunamganj district administration has no idea how many people have got the incentives in the district. "We don't know the exact numbers. The Prime Minister's Office is directly overseeing the disbursement through a software," a district official said.
Nearly 56,000 families of the corrected list are waiting for the incentives to be doled out in Rangpur, where 1.40 lakh people were supposed to get the money.
"When the revised list will be approved by the ministry, the rest of the beneficiaries will get the cash aid,"' said Hasib Ahsan, deputy commissioner of Rangpur district.
Jahangir Alam, additional deputy commissioner (general) of Mymensingh district, explained, "Those who have not got the money have got problems with their mobile numbers or do not have bank accounts." Out of 1.40 lakh enlisted people, 27,894 have got the cash aid in his district.
Though 46.13 lakh jobless poor people were supposed to get Tk2,500 each as 'Eid gift' from the government before Eid-ul-Fitr, around half of the poor have not got the money as yet due to faulty lists and irregularities.
However, 22.86 lakh enlisted people, who have not got the cash aid due to different types of information errors in the list, are expected to get it before Eid-ul-Azha.
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md Enamur Rahman told The Business Standard, "The 22.86 lakh enlisted people will get the cash aid before Eid-ul-Azha if they can give correct mobile numbers or bank account numbers after correcting the errors in dates of birth, professions or mobile numbers."
Already they have been told to open bank accounts with Tk10.
The main errors, which have caused the delay, are – the mobile numbers given against the names on the list are registered under other people's names, mismatch in the dates of birth mentioned in the list and those given in national identity (NID) cards and no mention of any specific profession.
Though these people are considered eligible for financial help, they have not got the aid due to these errors.
Meanwhile, many of them have given the mobile numbers given in their own NID cards. Now, the cash aid will be sent to the numbers.
However, those who do not have mobile numbers have to open bank accounts of Tk10. The aid will be sent to the bank account numbers.
The prime minister declared the financial aid for 50 lakh poor people of different professions, who lost their jobs during the general holidays that started on March 26.
The government has allocated Tk250 crore for 50 lakh poor people.
But 46.13 lakh people were enlisted instead of 50 lakh.
Then 4.93 lakh people were excluded from the list as 557 of them had saving bonds of Tk5 lakh each, 2.95 lakh people's names had been enlisted several times, 1.07 lakh people were under social safety net programme and 2,855 were government employees, according to the finance ministry.
So, 8.79 lakh poor people are supposed to be included in the list now.
However, the state minister could not inform anything of the time needed to include the 8.79 lakh people on the list. He said the entire thing was being monitored by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
The cash aid was given to 16.16 lakh people through mobile banking service before Eid-ul-Fitr while 2.17 lakh got it after the Eid, said a letter of the finance ministry.
The letter was sent to the PMO and the disaster management and relief ministry after scrutinising the list of the beneficiaries.
The irregularities in the list surfaced after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the programme of giving the aid on May 14. The government took action against several public representatives.
The people concerned said the government had not any list of the poor. So the responsibility of preparing a list of 50 lakh poor people within a short time amid the pandemic was given to local public representatives.
The government thought maximum 10 percent ineligible people might be included in the list due to political interference and nepotism. But what happened in reality was exactly the opposite, they said.
Each district was given under one secretary for making a proper list. The secretaries held meetings with the local representatives only once to discharge their duties. Some of them held the meetings online while some went to the respective districts for the meetings.
The district and upazila level administration completely depended on the local public representatives instead of being involved in the work directly during the general holidays, the people concerned said.
That is why there are errors involving 28 lakh people's information out of 46 lakh in the list, they think.
A secretary, who was in charge of a district in North Bengal, told The Business Standard, "I went to the district and held meetings with local public representatives and administration, urging them to make an error-free list. It is not possible for a secretary to scrutinise a list of 80,000-90,000 people in each district. The failure of local administration is responsible for such faulty lists."
An official of the finance ministry said, "The list was made hastily. It was really very difficult to make such a big list within such a short time. We also thought that there would be some errors. But we did not imagine that names of government employees and pension receivers would be on the list. Local administrations have failed and local public representatives could not work beyond their personal and political party's interests. And that is why the financial help has not reached the poor in due time despite the government's sincere intention."
Our correspondents from Brahmanbaria, Chattogram, Rangpur, Sunamganj and Mymensingh gave inputs for this report