Cry of the helpless for relief grows

Although assistance and support activities for the helpless section of people were witnessed on a wide scale following the lockdown to prevent the coronavirus spread, these activities now seem to be running out of steam.

In the beginning, various individuals, social organizations and leaders of political parties assisted the needy in their own ways. Cooked food was also distributed among the floating people in different parts of the country, including the capital.

Now the uprooted people are found standing on the roads for relief, but no one brings relief. On the other hand, the family-based humanitarian aid card announced by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief is revolving. The list has not still not been completed in many districts. Deputy Commissioners of different districts have said that relief will start after the lists are finalized. However, no one could specify when.

The same is the case with the city corporations, including Dhaka. The floating people are increasing on the street to demand aid and relief.

On April 18, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, there will be no food crisis in the country for the coronavirus outbreak. A plan has been taken keeping in mind the economy for the next three years.

According to the Ministry of Food, 77 lakh 9 thousand beneficiaries are being assisted through three types of food-friendly programmes OMS, VGD and VGF throughout the year. Due to Coronavirus, another 50 Lakh beneficiaries have been added to this food-friendly programme. Now the total number of beneficiaries will be one crore 27 lakh 9 thousand families. 

A total of six crore people with four members in each family have been identified as beneficiaries. To prevent corruption in food distribution, these families will be assisted through QR (Quick Response) cards so that middlemen do not commit any corruption.

Mohammad Wahidul Islam, Deputy Commissioner of Madaripur told Bangladesh Post, “We have already prepared a list of 55,000 people according to our allocation, which has already been sent on Friday. Besides, we are preparing a special list of 200 people and it will be sent shortly. According to my knowledge, the Prime Minister will inaugurate the programme on May 14.”

Mohammad Aslam Hossain, DC of Kushtia said, “We have prepared a list of 75 thousand beneficiaries, which has already been sent to the concerned department. It is at the checking stage. After checking, we will decide finally.”

Dr. K M Kamruzzanan Selim, DC of Thakurgaon said, ‘A list has been completed, which is now being verified and sorted. After completing the verification work, we will start aid distributing. Before that, the Prime Minister may inaugurate the distribution programme on May 14. To this end, we have sent a list of 200 beneficiaries. We may get 100 cards at that time.”

Meanwhile, needy people scramble for assistance whenever cars stop on the roads. Helpless people are protesting in different areas demanding relief and aid. Laborers of Sayedabad bus terminal also staged a protest procession in the capital on Thursday demanding relief and assistance. The cry for relief is growing as private relief gets limited and the government’s list of beneficiaries is not finalized.

Since the announcement of the coronavirus presence in the country, the poor have so far received three types of assistance. Those are private initiative, through ward councilors of city corporations and chairmen of union councils in districts, and gifts from the Prime Minister. The government is using technology to re-list around 1.28 crore families and issue two types of cards. These are the OMS and the Humanitarian Assistance Card of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.

 Work is underway to compile a list of beneficiaries of these two types of programmes. Field administrations of six ministries are working simultaneously. Once the list is finalized, they will be submitted to the district administrations. The district administration will send the list to the Ministry of Food and Relief. Once the QR card is completed, the district administration will deliver it to the listed beneficiaries.

Ward councilors in the city corporation areas will make a list and submit it to the regional executive officer of the city corporation who will submit the OMS list to the Ministry of Food and the list of Humanitarian Assistance Cards to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.

This card will then be delivered digitally to the listed beneficiaries. A search of the digital QR card recipients' list has revealed that the list has been finalized in some districts and city corporations, while in some districts the chairmen of the Union Parishads have submitted the list to the UNO.

Local government expert, Professor Tofael Ahmed said, We should not give relief in this disaster by taking the list prepared by the people's representatives earlier. Now, people have no work. Like construction workers and transport workers, they would never get relief. But now it is very necessary. For this reason, a committee comprising army, public representatives and government officials should be given responsibility for a new list.

The State Minister Md. Enamur Rahman, and Senior Secretary Mohammad Shah Kamal of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, were called several times for comment on the matter. However, they did not respond.