Most people do not have any idea about where to go and whom to ask for relief
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) says the lack of knowledge about relief distribution and other related information confuses people.
It has also bred suspicion about the actions of local administration.
However, top local administration officials were praised for the support provided to people amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The observations were made during the webinar, “Corona and Flood Relief Program: Effectiveness of Government Services,” organized by CPD, Oxfam Bangladesh, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), and Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, on Tuesday.
CPD Distinguished Fellow, Prof Mustafizur Rahman, moderated the program.
Speakers at the webinar also emphasized the need for tripartite attempts to solve local problems arising from the pandemic and other natural disasters.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow at CPD, while summarizing the discussion said: “The country is going through a three dimensional crisis, i.e. the Covid-19 pandemic, the monsoon floods, and the devastation of cyclone Amphan.
“During any national crisis, the government has to take the leading role. The government already took emergency measures and implemented them, this time.
“But from today’s discussion it has been made clear that there is an information gap somewhere which is spreading doubt among all,” he added.
The question is, whether people know the criteria to receive relief, and whether the information is disseminated properly, Debapriya said.
“This is information distortion. Information distortion leads the market into bewilderment and consternation,” the SDG platform convenor said.
The local administration that is providing the assistance should participate in information dissemination so that all people know, he added.
“The solution to confusion is ensuring transparency,” he said, adding that “it would be a better practice if the Union Parishad (UP) chairmen could show the actual list of people entitled to get relief, on a board outside the UP offices. This would ensure accountability of the local representatives as well.”
Earlier in the discussion, CPD Senior Research Associate Mostafa Amir Sabbih said the people they interviewed were not aware that they were entitled to receive relief. They did not even know who to call or ask for relief.
Rangpur’s Kaunia Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), Ulfot Ara Begum, speaking at the webinar said, as people lack knowledge about the criteria, they fall into confusion and presume they are being deprived.
“The people who are already in government assistance projects were not kept in the relief list during the Covid-19 pandemic. Those who lost their jobs or had a hefty loss in their business, were selected to get relief,” she said.
Tripartite attempts a must to solve the local problems
Prof Mustafizur said there should be a local solution for a local crisis.
Dr Debapriya said to solve problems locally, there should be a tripartite approach.
The local administration, local political representatives, and non-government development organizations should work closely, he said.
None of them (the three parties) are competitors to each other and the recommendations are made to bring about more efficiency in government services, Dr Debpriya said.
He made the observation, after what he termed a “constructive debate,” broke out between UNO Ulfot and an NGO official regarding the presence of NGO workers from April to June, the peak time of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“No NGO worker was seen at the field level during the pandemic. No assistance was also received from them as well, Ulfot said.
“Government officials and staff are the people who worked relentlessly, in the moment of crisis,” and, “when the transparency of government services is questioned, the transparency of NGO activities should be questioned also,” she said.
Debapriya said they also discussed at the SDG platform meeting recently whether the NGOs went to the people during the outbreak.
It cannot be said for sure whether NGOs reached the people they should have in this pandemic, he said.
Speakers at the program said it is necessary to find out if all the people in need have got their relief properly. Besides, it has to be determined whether the scarcity of relief was because of corruption or the lack of resources.
At the webinar, local level NGO workers and officials suggested there be a plan to stop erosion of embankments by dredging rivers or any other measures. They also suggested ensuring the disbursement of allocated money for small animal farms or farmers as well.
Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah, Director General of NGO Affairs Bureau Rashedul Islam, CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun, Rangpur Deputy Commissioner Asib Ahsan, Country Director of Oxfam Bangladesh, Dipankar Datta, and RDRS Director Abdur rahman also participated in the webinar.