Asrayan to better lot of the destitute

Zahura Banu once passed her days in extreme misery with two girl children after the death of her day-labourer husband Fakir Munshi, but now she has been able to change her fortune by taking assistance from the ‘Asrayan Prakalpo,’ a priority project of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.  

“I had to pass through a difficult time . . . it was not easy for me to manage meal once a day for my two children, but now I am able to overcome the hardship with the help of the government’s rehabilitation and credit facility project,” said Zahura, a 45-year old woman now dwelling in a house at Dharmapur Ashrayan Prakalpo in Feni district.  

While narrating her days of hardship, Zahura said she lost her husband in 2008, and as he was a day-labourer he left nothing for maintaining the family. The situation had forced her to work as a maid-servant at a house for maintaining her family.

“It was a very hard time for us. A maid-servant’s job was not enough to maintain my family. In such a state, I came to know about the government’s project-Ashrayan Prakalpo. I went to the Union Parishad and applied for a house,” said Zahura.

Zahura was rehabilitated in Dharmapur Asrayan project in 2009.  Asrayan Prakalpo’, one of the 10 priority projects of the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has turned into an apparent means of alleviating poverty of the people who once passed their days in extreme misery after becoming victims of disasters like cyclone, river erosion and landslides.

“Fortunately, I got a house in Dharmapur. Later, the Social Welfare Department gave me Tk 10,000 as credit,” said Zahura.

She said that she also took training on animal husbandry, poultry, vegetable and fruit farming for a better life. With the passage of time, things began to look more hopeful. Now, she is leading a happy-life as her two girl children are also earning a handsome amount of money to maintain the family.

Like Zahura, a number of beneficiaries of the project narrated their stories of transformation toward prosperity while talking to Bangladesh Post.

“After getting training in income-generating activities, Upazila Cooperative Office provided us with Tk 6,000 as first loan in 2012 when we started cultivating crops as sharecroppers,” said Lucky Begum (35), a beneficiary of the project now living in Bondua village under Feni Sadar upazila.

Lucky Begum is now growing seasonal vegetables and earns on an average an amount ranging from Tk 500 to Tk 700 daily by selling the vegetables in a local market.  

Nur Mian (42), another beneficiary of Chengmari Asrayan Phase-2 Prakalpo in Gangachara upazila of Rangpur, came up with the same opinion and said he now feels economic comfort after revolving the credits received from the project for his homestead farming and animal husbandry.

In Rangpur about 4,500 people affected by river erosion and other climatic disorders are changing their fortune through various income generating activities under the comprehensive social safety-net programs of Ashrayan Project.

“After payment of the first loan, my family again got Tk 8,000 in 2014 to purchase a bull. I sold it at Tk 24,000 in 2016, paid the second loan and again got Tk 18,000 loan in 2016,” said Nur Mian.

Asrayan Prakalpo has ended the economic vulnerability of many homeless families by providing them with shelter and necessary financial assistance to rebuild their life, they said adding that rehabilitated people are leading meaningful lives and their children are going to schools in better attire.

Talking to Bangladesh Post, Secretary of Feni's Dharmapur Asrayan Project, Mohammad Abdul Kayum Patowary said 210 families have so far been rehabilitated under the ‘Asrayan Prakalpo’.

“All the rehabilitated families have become self-reliant by participating in income generating activities and ensuring proper utilisation of micro-credit provided by the government,” said Patowary.

In 2009, he said, each family was given Taka 10,000 for income generating activities and they have already repaid all of their loans.

Director of the Ashrayan-2 Project, Md Mahbub Hossain said the government has undertaken the scheme to give the homeless people a meaningful life through providing shelter and assistance and alleviating poverty through involving them in income-generating activities.

Since inception of the project in 1997, a total of 319,140 families have been rehabilitated in three phases across the country, he said, adding that the first two phases of the scheme were successfully completed in 2010.

“The rehabilitated families are getting skill-building training on various trades with the support of the Local Government Department, while Upazila Cooperative Offices are also providing revolving interest-free microcredit to them at only a 7 percent service charge,” he added.

He said they are making profits through running small businesses, animal husbandry, poultry raising, tree plantation, and vegetables and fruit farming at homesteads.

Mahbub said that the government has been providing professional-based training to two members of each rehabilitated family. The government undertook the Ashrayan-2 Project in 2010 aimed at providing shelter to around 2.50 lakh families by June 2022, he added.

Under the project, he said, the government rehabilitated a total of 213,227 families from July 2010 till June 2020.

Deputy Director (Local Government) at Rangpur district administration Ruhul Amin Mian said a total of 4,500 distressed families have been rehabilitated after completing construction of tin-shed barracks under 41 projects in three phases in eight upazilas of the district.

The local government departments, including Upazila Cooperatives Offices, are implementing the government’s comprehensive social safety-net activities for mainstreaming of the rehabilitated people.

The males and female members of the project are being given training for awareness building, capacity building and human resource development to enable them get engaged in income generating activities, he said.

Talking to Bangladesh Post, Gangachara Upazila Cooperatives Officer, Md. Aftabuzzaman said a total of 2,660 families affected by river erosion have been rehabilitated through Asrayan Prakalpo’ in the upazila.

After their rehabilitation, local government departments provided them with necessary training and the Upazila Cooperative Office is arranging interest-free microcredit to help them start income generating activities.

“We have purchased two bulls, taken lease of 12 decimals of cropland and opened a grocery shop,” said Shefali a beneficiary of Chengmari Asrayan Phase-2 Prakalpo in Gangachara upazila of Rangpur. She said that now they have assets worth Tk 3.50-lakh and their daughter Nasrin studies in Class-VIII and son Russell in Class-V.

Abu Bakar (67), Anwarul Islam (56), Mariyam Nesa (52) and Sekel Banu (70) of Chengmari Asrayan Phase-2 Prakalpo also gave the same picture of their life saying once they were homeless. Now they are living well, ending their miseries through income-generating activities like raising cows and goats, poultry farming, homestead gardening and other occupations.

Badarganj Upazila Cooperative Officer Shamsun Nahar Begum said 200 homeless families were rehabilitated at Osmanpur Khamarerdanga Asrayan Prakalpo in the upazila in 2006.

Rehabilitated couple Ashraf, 47, and Sabina, 42, at Osmanpur Khamarerdanga Asrayan Prakalpo in Badarganj upazila of Rangpur said they struggled a lot for survival since becoming homeless until their rehabilitation there in 2006.

Sabina said she got Taka 8,000 as interest-free loan for the first time in 2009 and purchased a heifer and opened a grocery shop. After paying the loan, she got Taka 12,000 for the second time and subsequently got credit two more times.

‘Now, we have 16 cattle heads and my home is furnished with furniture, television and solar panel,” she said adding that they have set up a dairy farm and their son Sabbir and daughter Armina are studying in Class ten and class eight respectively,” Sabina added.

The rehabilitated people expressed their deep gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for assisting them in rebuilding their fortune to lead a meaningful life.