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'Like her own children'

  • Published at 08:53 pm August 21st, 2018
august 21 grenade attack
File photo: An unexploded grenade on Bangabandhu Avenue after the attack on August 21, 2004 Courtesy

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has never ceased to support her fellow August 21 victims in all their needs

Over the past 14 years, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has never forgotten the victims of the August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally which was intended to kill her.

Left with a permanent hearing impairment after surviving the blast, Hasina has continuously supported the families of those killed and seriously wounded, both financially and otherwise.

An employee of the Bangabandhu Memorial Trust, built on assets inherited by Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana and donated to welfare, told the Bangla Tribune every year the prime minister asks after each and every individual by name and tells the Trust to “keep her updated” about their health and wellbeing.

“When anyone needs additional money the prime minister arranges that through the trust or her welfare fund,” SM Kamrul Islam Litu said.

To aid the treatment of the injured and the education of the children, the trust pays out a regular sum to each and every victim family, ranging from Tk2,000 to Tk10,000.

The trust began giving out the financial support in 2004, and it was only halted briefly during the caretaker government era when the trust's bank accounts were frozen.

Sheikh Hasina has also arranged private and government jobs for the family members, helped get the children into good schools and bought fixed deposits and savings certificates to help with their day-to-day expenses.

Some of the survivors of the attack have been given flats, while women leaders have been allocated reserve MP seats.

“After it happened, our leader was by our side,” Reserved seat MP Umme Razia Kajal said. “If she had not taken care of us, many of us would not have been alive or would be living as cripples.

“Among those injured on August 21, me and one other have been made reserve seat MPs, and some others have been given party nominations.”

The prime minister has arranged fixed deposits of Tk5 lakh to 10 lakh for each family from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

In September 2013, Hasina gave 66 families Tk5 lakh to Tk10 lakh in savings certificates. In the following years, she has given these families similar support, which helps them bear the costs of living and the costs of education for their children.

On May 15 this year, she also gave 69 people Tk5 lakh to 10 lakh in savings certificates, and arranged jobs for many of the family members.

The Bangabandhu Memorial Trust issues scholarships to about 1,500 students, among whom are children from the families of victims of the August 21 attack.

About 100 people also receive regular medical costs to the tune of Tk2,000 to Tk10,000 from the trust.

Some, who are more financially capable, have been allotted land from the prime minister's quotas in Rajuk's Purbachal and Jhilmil projects.

For the low income families, she has arranged to donate 104 flats in Mirpur that are being built by the Housing and Public Works Ministry. Already 31 families have received flats, each measuring 1,500 square feet.

In the past nine years, some of the victims have accompanied Sheikh Hasina on her visits to foreign countries.

Selim chowdhury, of Dhamrai, said he will forever be grateful to Hasina, who supported him financially through 19 rounds of surgery following the attack.

“If she were not by my side back then, I would not be alive,” he said.

Mamun, the son of Dhaka Metropolitan Awami League leader Rafiqul Islam, who was killed in the attack, described the prime minister as a “guardian”.

“We never had financial needs, but she has helped us out with every problem that we have faced (so) we are very grateful to her,” he said.

Reserved seat MP Umme Razia Kajal said the feelings of gratitude were universal among the 21 August grenade attack survivors.

“None of the victims will tell you the prime minister has not done anything for them,” she said.

“She has looked after us like her own children.”