Monetary aid presumably before Eid, say officials
The authorities have decided to distribute five million ration cards in the urban areas of the country among the marginalized sections of society before Ramadan, especially to those who became temporarily unemployed due to the coronavirus shutdown.
The holy month of Ramadan is scheduled to begin on April 25, depending on the sighting of the moon.
A card holder will be able to buy a maximum of 20kg of rice per month at Tk10 per kilo under the special Open Market Sales (OMS).
“The card holder will be able to purchase rice before Ramadan as per government plan. We are set to deliver rice on Thursday after finalizing the cards,” said Mustafizur Rahman, divisional commissioner of Dhaka division.
According to the directive, all classes and professions who earned daily wages, and became unemployed due to the pandemic, will be enlisted for ration card eligibility. Among them are farmers, workers, potters, blacksmiths, day-labourers, weavers and small traders.
“We sent an excel sheet to the deputy commissioners to incorporate the required data of temporary unemployed people for avoiding duplication and misappropriation,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Although the government launched such a service on April 5, it was suspended due to rampant corruption by elected representatives, officials and dealers.
The Food Ministry then circulated a fresh order to the deputy commissioners on March 15, requiring them to create a database of jobless people and then distribute the allocated rice.
“Only those urban people will be incorporated in the database who do not get any kind of benefit from social safety net programs,” said Mustafizur Rahman.
‘Possibility of avoiding corruption’
“Through the new process with cards, all kinds of corruption may be avoided,” said Dr Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum, secretary of the Food Ministry.
However, the deputy commissioners only have a couple of days in hand to meet the deadline.
Dhaka Tribune spoke to DCs, Awami League leaders and food officials, who said it would not be possible (for distribution to be done) before Ramadan, but card holders would get the benefit from the beginning of Ramadan.
“Such priority tasks for the field level officials are being slowed down due to shortage of manpower and unavailability of data,” said a DC, seeking anonymity.
A DC from Chittagong Division said: “The temporary unemployed people have not come under any list earlier. So, we depend on elected representatives and local people.”
“We have formed a ward committee to help the administration in making a database of urban poor,” said Abu Ahmed Mannafi, president of Bangladesh Awami League, Dhaka South unit.
Source- Food Ministry
However, many officials and elected representatives are in home quarantine, leading to a further slowing down of the process.
According to the Food Ministry, around five million villagers are able to buy Open Market Sales (OMS) rice at Tk10 per kg across the country round the year under the Food Friendly program.
For the poor in urban areas, 74,000 tons of rice will be distributed under the OMS scheme. The government has allocated Tk251 crore for the scheme.
Monetary aid scheme
Bangladesh announced a monetary aid package for daily wage earners on April 13, as the ongoing coronavirus lockdown has robbed them of their earnings.
But the government has yet to set the deadline for a distribution of cash aid to the distressed people. Officials guess that it will start before Eid-ul-Fitr.
“The time frame for delivering cash aid to the poor is yet to be set. But it will be planned as soon as possible,” said Mustafizur Rahman, Dhaka Divisional Commissioner.
In an address to the nation last Monday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rolled out a Tk760 crore scheme for the people hardest hit in the countrywide shutdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The one-time monetary assistance will be deposited into the workers’ bank accounts as soon as the list is available.
However, many who do not have bank accounts will receive cash over mobile wallet accounts such as bKash, Nagad, etc.
For daily wage earners, the lockdown has come as a storm at very short notice, giving them little time to prepare for the consequences and threatening to take away everything they managed to build and save.
According to the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry, around 1.7 million widows, 4.4 million of the aged population and 1.6 million distressed people get food and allowance under social safety net programs such as Vulnerable Group Development (VDG), Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), and Gratuitous Relief Program.
But such relief support is being given mostly in the villages, which is why the government has initiated a fresh ration card for urban jobless people who got recently unemployed due to the coronavirus crisis.