Irregularities in govt’s flood response must be avoided: Denying they don’t exist is not enough

The Daily Star  August 21, 2020
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According to the agriculture minister, Tk 1,323 crore worth of crops have been damaged on 1.58 lakh hectares of land in 37 districts by floods, and a further deterioration of the situation could deal a severe blow to the country. The minister also claimed that the government has taken ample measures to mitigate the damage and loss that have occurred and unless things take a turn for the worse, food production will not be impacted.
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Contradicting the minister, a CPD study on the ongoing flood found a number of problems in the government’s response, including delays in repairing embankments and irregularities in relief distribution. The study also revealed that more than four kilometres of embankments have been damaged in 97 unions, two to four kilometres of embankments have been damaged in 53 unions and up to two kilometres have been damaged in 70 unions. While revealing these figures, experts criticised the government’s amnesia when it comes to building and repairing embankments, despite the need to do so being discussed year after year. The government starts to repair the embankments just before monsoon or during monsoon, and in a way that leads to a huge amount of public money being wasted.

The government’s relief distribution measures were also censured by experts, who said that favouritism and corruption are yet to be neutralised. Surprisingly, the state minister for disaster management for relief and rehabilitation denied any of this, and in a sweeping statement said that: “There is no irregularity or inadequacy in relief distribution.”

What about all the newspaper reports last October as well as a TIB survey finding irregularities in the government’s flood relief distribution? Did the minister investigate the allegations and find them to be false? If so, would he care to share his findings? And what about the year before, when corruption in relief distribution once again surfaced, particularly in places like Moulvibazar? Is the minister not aware of these allegations? We expect that he must be, so when were these allegations investigated? If the minister is going to say that they are false, he must be doing so based on some facts, which we would also like to know about.

We must caution the government to be careful in its relief distribution and ensure that corruption does not eat away at it—as it so often has this year during the Covid-19 relief distribution drives. Furthermore, we must also remind the government to work on building and repairing embankments in their proper times, in the hopes that this time the authorities will not forget to do so again.
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