Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's kind and timely initiative to help the poor and needy has sadly been undermined by the administration assigned to carry out the programme. Carried in a Bangla contemporary on Sunday last, the report on the opaque money distribution among five million poor families has detailed how a noble initiative can be frustrated by inefficiency and mismanagement. Of the Tk 12.50 billion allocated for the purpose, an amount of Tk 4.39 billion now remains unused. How this has happened is both a sad and appalling tale. So far 367,872 families could be given Tk 2,500 each. Shockingly, no money if said to have reached 42,168 families. The money amounted to Tk 1.15 billion reportedly lies with the four mobile financial services (MFS) providers. If this is the state of the distribution of aid money among poor and vulnerable families, the situation is even worse in case of the aid package meant for workers who were retrenched or furloughed. Received from the European Union, the amount was Tk11.35 billion but with government input it was raised to Tk 15 billion. However, to the needy workers' woes, only Tk 50 million could be disbursed.
From the above fact it transpires that about Tk 20 billion could not be reached to the deserving people. Why money lies with the MFS providers says it all. Many of the listed names are either fictitious or people who do not deserve such financial aid. It is really embarrassing that rich and well-placed people have been enlisted for the aid. In one case, a man living in an air-conditioned home has also been included for the emergency financial assistance. How the programme was vitiated right from the beginning is evident from the finance ministry's intervention in August last when as many as 1,433,000 names were slashed from the list on charge of irregularities and malpractices.
Then the deputy commissioners (DCs), upazilanirbahi officers (UNOs), and union parishad chairmen and members were involved with the preparation of an uncontroversial list of the poor but still the list has remained faulty. Accepted that it is a gargantuan job but if the members of the local government are honest and dedicated to the cause, preparation of a faultless list of the deserving poor should not be at all challenging. Clearly, those who were given the responsibility at the local level have not performed their job honestly and responsibly. It is a pity that a most testing time such as this could not make a change of heart of leaders at the grassroots level.
As for the distribution of the aid package among the workers, lack of correct information, non-cooperation between the administration and factories/industries have been mainly responsible. Primarily meant for export-oriented garments factories, leather and leather goods, the money could have been distributed smoothly if only those assigned to prepare the list were serious. Eight criteria were fixed for enlistment of the deserving candidates. Time has not passed as yet for amending the pitfalls in the list making process. Let genuine lists of the poor and jobless workers be made for disbursement of the unused money. Even more money should be added to the aid packages.