• Sunday, May 09, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:52 pm

Lockdown extension: Government announces cash, food aid for poor

  • Published at 05:55 pm April 18th, 2021
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
File photo of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Focus Bangla

100,000 farmers will get Tk5,000 each

Bangladesh is preparing to provide cash and food aid for the poor, jobless and disaster-affected families as the government mulls extending the lockdown by another week.

"The prime minister will provide financial assistance of Tk2,500 and Tk5,000 to the Covid-19 affected families and those who suffered from natural disaster,” Ihsanul Karim, press secretary to the prime minister, said on Sunday.

“The government will spend a total of Tk930 crore in this regard,” he said. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has decided to disburse cash aid for 3.5 million poor families and 100,000 disaster-affected farmers.

The decision of lockdown extension would be announced soon, said State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain.

“The ongoing nationwide lockdown is likely to be extended by another week. The decision will be made public in a day or two,” Farhad told reporters on Sunday.

The stricter lockdown came into force on April 14, after a week of leniency, to tackle the second wave of Covid-19 when the number of infections and deaths has spiked significantly.

During the lockdown, most of the workplaces have been closed due to which day labourers, transport workers and small entrepreneurs who live on a hand-to-mouth income are not getting paid.

Like last year, the government is planning to distribute cash and food aid, so that they can survive during the lockdown.

According to sources at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the prime minister launched the cash aid program for the Covid-19 affected people on May 12 last year. At that time, the government made a list of 5 million people and disbursed aid to around 3.5 million.

“We already have their data on the Finance Department’s database, and this year’s relief will be allocated from the same fund,” according to a top official at the PMO.

In addition, the Agricultural Ministry has prepared a new list of 100,000 farmers, who were affected by strong winds, hailstorms and cyclones on April 4.

Out of 30,94,249 hectares of cropland cultivated in 36 districts, some 10,301 hectares of cropland were completely devastated and 59,327 hectares partially damaged due to the natural calamities.

The affected section of farmers are set to get Tk50 crore in cash aid.

Financial assistance will also be given to day labourers, farmers, domestic workers, hawkers, and the people of some other marginal professions.

Talking to the Dhaka Tribune on Sunday, Livestock and Fisheries Minister S M Rezaul Karim also said: “I do not know details of the plan as the fund has just been announced. But I hope that there will be some allocation for the fishermen as well, who have been affected by this lockdown.”

Dr Abdur Razzaque, a senior cabinet member, told the Dhaka Tribune: “If we are to continue with the lockdown and extend it even further, I think more cash aid will be disbursed gradually.”

Senior secretaries in-charge

Like last year, 64 senior secretaries of the government will monitor the cash and food aid disbursement process, reads an office order signed by the PMO.

Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Tajul Islam said that due to the surge of Covid-19, all local government elections had been postponed. “So, the current representatives like councillors, chairmen, and members are supposed to coordinate the relief disbursement process in the field level.”

Road, Transport, and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said that the government would provide food aid to 12.5 million families during the lockdown.

Apart from the government leaders, different wings of the Awami League will assist in the disbursement process in cooperation with the local administration, according to party insiders.

In 2020, a number of local politicians, including councillors, chairpersons, and members of union and upazila parishads were suspended over irregularities in rice distribution.

At one point in mid-April, the government was forced to suspend the open market sale (OMS) initiative, due to corruption and mass gatherings at selling points.

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