Amid the ongoing lockdown that hardly allows any business opportunities, the cash incentive to about 50 lakh families, said to be a gift from the Prime Minister ahead of the Eid festival, made the beneficiaries immensely happy.
According to high ups in the government, Taka 1,250 crore are being distributed among 50 lakh families through mobile financial services (MFSs) such as bKash, Rocket, Nagad and SureCash. The fund disbursement process has been started from May 14. Each family is getting Tk 2,500 as cash assistance.
The government has selected those beneficiaries (families) with the help of local administrations and the elected representatives. The money is being disbursed among those mostly poor who are affected most by corona crisis.
Those who are getting the money include floating population, rickshaw and van-pullers, day-labourers, ferry or dock workers, salesmen at shop, small traders, barbers, street vendors, and manual workers engaged in construction, agriculture, private business organisations, poultry and dairy farms, and transportation. Such group of people are said to be most affected by the current corona crisis and have become jobless nationwide.
Apart from the financial incentive programme for the 50 lakh families, another two crore people from 50 lakh selected families are also receiving a separate government assistance under the vulnerable group feeding (VGF) cards, said government sources.
Besides, a huge number of people, including freedom fighters, elderly people, widows, physically-challenged and poor women abandoned by their husbands are receiving different allowances under various social safety net programmes.
Earlier on May 14, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed her firm determination to free the people from their plight by supporting them amid all possible crisis, and relieve them from their sorrows and ordeals. She made the comment while formally inaugurating the disbursement.
Participating in the event through videoconference from her official residence at Ganabhaban, Sheikh Hasina said, "The population is huge. I may not be able to provide that much money to them. But I can at least give a small amount of money so that no one is deprived and we can extend support to all. We are taking these steps by keeping that in mind."
Sheikh Hasina also kicked off the distribution of stipends and tuition fees from her education assistance trust fund to undergraduate and equivalent level students in the 2019 academic year through mobile/online banking.
"We tried to save and manage money so that we could help them in the holy month of Ramadan," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the government earlier had undertaken many plans to celebrate the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and had allocated money for this purpose.
"But the government has redirected the funds to provide much needed assistance to the poor and needy," the prime minister mentioned.
She added that the government had earlier issued ration cards to 50 lakh families so that they can buy rice at Tk10 per kg.
"We are also continuing all social safety net programmes, and we have taken a decision to provide cash support of Tk 1,250 crore to 50 lakh families excluding those who are getting assistance through ration cards, VGD, VGF and other social safety net programmes," said Sheikh Hasina.
The prime minister announced that the government will provide Tk 2,000 crore to Karmasangsthan Bank and Tk 500 crore to Probashi Kallyan Bank to help youths and expatriate Bangladeshis who have become jobless because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She added, "We founded another specialised bank named Probashi Kallyan Bank so that people can go abroad by taking loans from the bank instead of selling their properties.
"Earlier, we gave Tk 400 crore to this bank, and now we are giving another Tk 500 crore as many Bangladeshis returned home from abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic."
Sheikh Hasina went on as saying, "They are citizens of our country and we do not want them to go through any ordeal while they are abroad. If they wish to return home, they can come back.”
"That is why we have allocated the money so that they can do something here by taking loans from the bank."
In this connection, the prime minister mentioned that people are becoming self-reliant through the Palli Sanchay Bank.
Adding that the government has given financial assistance of nearly Tk 10 crore to 6,865 qawmi madrasas that have orphanages across the country ahead of the Ramadan, Sheikh Hasina announced further financial assistance for all mosques and 7,000 more qawmi madrasas before the Eid.
She said the government will also provide financial support to underprivileged people such as hijras or 3rd gender and gypsy communities.
Sheikh Hasina said the government enforced the nationwide shutdown of schools, offices and public transport system since March 26 as part of the effort to stem the Covid-19 outbreak.
"But the shutdown has been relaxed for the sake of the people's livelihood," she said.