‘Many of them were not included in any of the social safety net programs’
With the 17-day long general holiday now underway in Bangladesh, survival remains a major challenge for the country’s poor who depend on daily wages to maintain their livelihood.
Tens of millions of people are now staring into a bleak future with no money in their pockets for survival as they have lost their means of earning due to the shutdown to contain the spread of coronavirus in Bangladesh.
Keeping this in mind, the government has already sent foodgrains to the offices of deputy commissioners across Bangladesh and is now making arrangements for packages of commodities and soap to be delivered to people who have become unemployed.
But the real challenge in the distribution of relief lies in finding those unemployed who have gone to their village homes due to the shutdown and have kept themselves confined indoors in line with government directives.
Data compiled by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief show 39,667 tons of rice and Tk11.2 crore were sent to all districts as of March 30 for disbursement among the poor.
Dr Md Enamur Rahman, state minister of the ministry, told Dhaka Tribune that the government would provide necessary food and daily essentials to people with no income as long as it was necessary.
“Many of the people, who will now require assistance, were not included in any of the social safety net programs. Finding them to provide them with assistance will be a challenge,” he said.
Currently, the government has lists of people receiving assistance under Vulnerable Group Feeding [VGF], Vulnerable Group Development [VDF] and other social safety net programs.
However, it does not have a list of people who live from hand to mouth, and do not have jobs because of staying indoors. Among them are day labourers, rickshaw pullers, tea stall vendors, transport workers and even beggars.
“Preparation of a list is underway in coordination with local representatives, MPs, and party leaders. Relief will be distributed as per the list,” the state minister said.
Relief distribution underway without a complete list
In conversations with Dhaka Tribune, deputy commissioners of different districts said they had already started distribution of relief but did not have a concrete list yet.
Madaripur DC Md Wahidul Islam said the relief materials had been sent to upazila nirbahi officers, who were disbursing them to union parishads (UP) for distribution.
“We are making a list of people who have a hand-to-mouth existence and have become unemployed. We have already started distributing relief to the general poor, but people who became jobless because of the shutdown will also receive assistance once a list is ready,” he said.
According to the district administrator, the authorities are currently supervising Open Market Sales [OMS] programs through which 45,000 card holders are getting 30kg rice each month at a cost of Tk10 per kg, in addition to provisions of other allowances to the poor as well.
Shariatpur DC Kazi Abu Taher said the authorities had listed 3,900 people who were now jobless because of the general holiday and provided each of them with 10kg rice, 5kg potato, 1kg lentil and 1kg salt and a piece of antiseptic soap.
“We will prepare another list shortly and distribute relief accordingly,” he said.