Covid-hit poorer get sigh of relief for social safety net programmes
Worried over livelihood for his family after losing of work due to lockdown for Covid-19, construction worker Abu Sayed has got a sigh of relief for the government's social safety net programmes.
As the government enforced general holidays, lockdowns, closure of factories and businesses since March 26 to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, income of the common people has been affected badly. So, the government has provided special emphasis on social safety net programmes to overcome the crisis.
Like Sayed, poor and low-income people are surviving with the supports under the government's different safety net programmes, including cash support of Taka 1,250 crore to 50 lakh families, humanitarian aid, special Open Market Sale (OMS), Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) and Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF).
"I depend on my daily income to survive. I never faced difficulties as I used to work almost every day. But the recent COVID-19 pandemic hindered the way of my life. I became anxious. But the financial support of the government gives me new hope," said Abu Sayed, 36, a labourer of Bogadhana village under Sonagazi upazila of Feni distric.
Sayed, father of a daughter and a son, thanked the government for financial support and informed that he received Taka 2,500 through his bKash account.
Abul Hashem, 41, a farmer of the Bijoy Kara village under Chauddagram upazila of Cumilla district, also received Taka 2,500 as cash support. "Due to coronavirus pandemic, I faced difficulties to sell of my crops. So, I couldn't properly bear all of my family expenses as I had no income. In this situation, the support was very much helpful for me," he added.
Talking to BSS, Prime Minister's Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus said the government has taken an initiative to make direct cash transfers of Taka 1,250 crore to five million people to alleviate their sufferings amid COVID-19.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched the distribution of Taka 2,500 to each of the 50 lakh destitute families, affected badly due to COVID-19 outbreak, through mobile financial services (MFSs)- bKash, Rocket, Nagad and Sure Cash, he added.
Sources informed that out of the 50 lakhs, so far 17 to 18 lakh people have already received the financial support.
Director (Relief) of the Disaster Management Department Md Iftekharul Islam said they are distributing essential commodities, including rice, pulse, oil, salt and potato, among poor people under their humanitarian assistance programme and the VGF cards.
"During the last three months, we distributed around 2.11 lakh metric tonnes rice at the 64 districts across the country," he added.
During the three months, Deputy Director of the Directorate General of Food Md Harun ur Rashid informed, the government sold about 55 thousand metric tonnes rice at Taka 10 per kg under the special OMS programme.
In the three months, he said, they also sold 4.50 lakh metric tonnes rice in the rural area under Food Friendly Programme (FFP).
Besides, a huge number of people including freedom fighters, elderly persons, widows, the physically-challenged and women abandoned by the husbands are receiving different allowances under various social safety net programmes.
For the fiscal 2020-21, the government has allocated Taka 95,574 crore in the social security sector, which is 16.83 percent of total budget and 3.01 percent of GDP.
"In the revised budget of FY2019-20, the allocation was Taka 81,865 crore. We are also implementing various programmes for the welfare of the marginalised communities besides helping the people with disabilities," Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said in his budget speech.
He said all poor senior citizens in 100 upazilas most prone to poverty due to the coronavirus outbreak will be brought under the old age allowance as per the existing policy. "This will add 5 lakh new beneficiaries, and an additional allocation of Taka 300 crore will be provided to this programme," he added.
The fiance minister said all widows and women deserted by their husbands in 100 upazilas most prone to poverty due to the coronavirus outbreak will be brought under the coverage of the allowance programme for widows and women deserted by their husbands as per the existing policy.
"This will add 3 lakh 50 thousand new beneficiaries, and an additional allocation of Taka 210 crore will be provided to this programme," he added.
He said the number of beneficiaries of the allowance for insolvent persons with disabilities will be increased to 18 lakhs following the latest disability identification survey.
This will add 2 lakh 55 thousand new beneficiaries, and an additional allocation of Taka 229.50 crore will be required for this purpose, he added.
Kamal informed that the Maternity Allowance for Poor Mothers, the Working Lactating Mothers' Assistance Programme, the VGD activities, the Freedom Fighters Honorarirum, the Employment Opportunity for the Extreme Poor, the Special Allowance for Improving the Living Standards of Gypsies and Disadvantaged Communities, the Education Stipend and Training for Gypsies and Disadvantaged Communities, the Assistance for Cancer, Kidney and Liver Cirrhosis Patients, the Living Standard Improvement Program for Tea Garden Workers, etc. will continue.
He said the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started the 'Rural Social Services Programme' in 1974 in 19 thanas as part of the strategy to eradicate rural poverty. -BSS