The government has been giving food relief and cash aid to keep limited-income people indoors during the countrywide shutdown, but the aid appears to be insufficient.
Ignoring the ban, a good number of people in the capital and other parts of the country are trying to go out in search of food, but they are turned away by law enforcement.
The novel coronavirus relief programme has also been riddled with theft and irregularities, depriving the intended beneficiaries of its benefits, who are now struggling during this lockdown enforced to stem the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Local representatives told The Business Standard that they are distributing relief materials only to the people who deserve it, but they do not have enough of a supply.
Till April 9, the government has allocated 65,967 tonnes of rice for relief, according to the disaster management and relief ministry. It has also allocated Tk25 crore in cash relief and more than Tk3 crore to purchase baby food.
The allocations have already been sent to all local administrations to distribute among deserving people. All the people who are in need will get food and financial support, and none will be without emergency relief, the ministry sources said.
Md Shah Kamal, senior secretary to the disaster management and relief ministry, told The Business Standard that a list of around 50 lakh families has been finalised to provide them with the aid.
Although the government claims that the list is final and they are sending food for the deserving people, there are complaints about the insufficient quantity of food.
Additionally, several local representatives have been arrested for allegedly misappropriating and stealing relief materials across the country.
Our correspondents, from different areas of the country, report that there is a shortage of resources allocated for the people and the irregularities of the local representatives have made it hard to help those who are living in dire conditions due to the nationwide shutdown.
A mobile court in Bogura's Sariakandi upazila imprisoned a local Awami League leader, for a month, for selling 288 sacks of rice from the relief fund on the black market on Monday. The convict, Gaziul Hoque, is a former chairman of Kutubpur union.
Azhar Ali Mondal, district relief and rehabilitation officer of Bogura, said, "So far, we have delivered relief materials to 28,100 families. Still, we have 406.5 tonnes of rice and Tk12 lakh in our fund. An additional Tk6 lakh has been allocated for baby food."
In Rajshahi, many impoverished people who need emergency relief have been excluded from the government list in different areas. Many of them have expressed their outrage because of the matter.
However, the district authority claimed that the relief has been distributed according to the government list.
Aminul Hoque, relief and rehabilitation officer of Bogura, said, "1,196 tonnes of rice have been allocated for the district. So far, 663 tonnes of rice have been distributed to 66,325 people. Plus, Tk14.50 lakh has been distributed to 11,497 people from the total allocation of Tk41.55 lakh."
In Chattogram, an incomplete list of 33,000 families from five upazilas has been finalised and relief items have been distributed to 72,000 families. The relief and rehabilitation office of the district has got 200 tonnes of rice and Tk10 lakh more which will be distributed to 20,000 families.
According to the Consumer Association of Bangladesh, around three lakh families in Chattogram are eligible for relief. However, the government allocations are lower than needed. As a result, many poor families are not getting any help.
In Barishal, there are allegations that the relief programme led by the district administration is limited to urban areas.
Md Kamruzzaman, project implementation officer of Barishal Sadar, said, "So far, 5,700 families of the upazila have received relief. Some families have to come to different places including the Union Parishad to receive the relief because of transportation problems."
Subrata Kumar Biswas, assistant commissioner of Barishal, said, "We have received an allocation of 800 tonnes of rice and Tk40 lakh from the ministry of disaster management and relief. So far, 17,902 poor and jobless families of the district have received our aid."
Meanwhile, Nurul Islam Ratan, councillor at Ward 29 of the Dhaka North City Corporation, told The Business Standard that he has received only 500 bags of relief from the city corporation authorities and distributed those among the poor.
"It is insufficient considering the number of deserving people my ward has. When people learn that the councillor is distributing relief materials, many come to me. But I cannot satisfy them all as I do not have enough," he added.
Omar Bin Abdal Aziz, councillor at Ward 27 of Dhaka South City Corporation, said also they are now distributing relief on their own and with the help of rich people.
The councillor said he has sent a list of 500 people to the city corporation authorities and is expecting to get aid within a short time.
Other local representatives at two Dhaka city corporations said there is a dire need to ensure food for the poor and lower-income people.
The prime minister has been directing the authorities again and again to ensure food for them, but they are still being deprived of it, they said, frustrated.
They demanded that an initiative be taken immediately to supply food for the people in need.
Md Shah Kamal, senior secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry, "In city corporation areas, we have doubled our allocations. We suggested delivering the food aid, considering the number of the poor in a certain area."
When asked about irregularities in aid distribution, the senior secretary said, "We are aware of the issue and taking stern action against those who are found involved in irregularities. The prime minister has warned the authorities several times against irregularities and corruption."
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chairman Iqbal Mahmood told The Business Standard that they have received information, from different media reports and their intelligence, that some people are involved in irregularities and corruption in distributing relief materials provided by the government amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
"All divisional offices and integrated district offices of the commission have been instructed to look into the matter. Our district offices will closely monitor the relief programmes through coordination with local deputy commissioners," he added.
"The ACC will not tolerate corruption in social security programmes," he also said.
On March 26, the government declared general holidays to ensure social distancing to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Yesterday, the ongoing holiday was further extended until April 25.
As a result, a large number of people in both rural and urban areas, who run their families on daily wages, have become jobless. A huge number of low-income people moved to the villages from the cities with almost no money in hand. Around 2.7 crore self-employed people no longer have work.