Govt’s Financial Aid Package: Bring fraudsters to book

A woman waits for relief at Science Laboratory intersection in Dhaka on 7 May, 2020.
A woman waits for relief at Science Laboratory intersection in Dhaka on 7 May, 2020. Abdus Salam

The government launched a special aid programme in May to help those who lost their livelihood due to the novel coronavirus. It was said that 5 million families would be given a one-time assistance of Tk 2,500. But till the second week of July, only 1.6 million families had received this aid. Others did not get it due to various irregularities while making the list.

The list did not consider the 10 million people that are under the government’s social security programme. In other words, it was for those who do not get any other help. But a Prothom Alo report published last Thursday has shown the incompetence, negligence and dishonesty of the people concerned. The list included well-to-do people, including homeowners, businessmen and relatives of local government representatives. The list also had government employees, pensioners and people who have savings certificates above Tk 500,000.

It only tells us that much of the government’s relief and social security funds are misappropriated. There are numerous allegations against local government representatives to this end. Many complaints have been lodged against them in the past, yet they were given the task of making the list.

At the beginning, the people concerned claimed that the list had been prepared after a lot of scrutiny and the list was free from anomalies. After two months, it is clear that the irregularities were multi-dimensional. Initial verification has found half a million names that should not have been there. What a cruel joke has been played on the poor in this time of the pandemic!

It is unfortunate that despite having 17 million extremely poor and 30 million poor people in the country, there is no database that records information about them. Making the list would have been easier with the help of such a database. The government should take steps to build such a database.

The purpose of the special aid programme was to provide some assistance to the helpless and endangered people on an emergency basis. But the public representatives who were given the responsibility of making the list have only checked if the person was a voter or not. Many slum dwellers who are workers have been dropped from the list because they are not voters in the city. They do not stay in the villages so they were dropped from the list made there as well.

It is necessary to take legal action against the public representatives who have listed the names of people who would never need such an aid. And the fact that government officials have not been able to compile a list of 5 million people in two months is a matter of grave concern. We need to ask them if they have the moral grounds to be in their position.

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Work For Food programme is relatively reliable among the social security programmes in Bangladesh. Because, one has to work to get money or food here. During the coronavirus crisis, a number of non-government organisations, including BRAC, provided assistance to the extremely poor. No questions were raised about the lists they had made.

The financial assistance package should immediately reach the remaining 3.4 million poor people. If necessary, the government should seek the help of the non-government organisations.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here