November 08, 2003

Monga � Another kind of famine

Bangladesh has been devastated by a famine-like condition in eight districts of its northern region. This year due to untimely rain, the Ropa Amon (a variety of rice) crop has been planted a month and a half earlier. So there is no work for agricultural workers for a couple of months until the harvest season, which starts in December. This year poverty has gripped more seriously than in the previous years as there has been no arrangement of work under food for works or test relief program, which was introduced to provide a earning source for agricultural workers and day laborers in this lean period. Many people had been already affected by the recent flood and all their food stocks have depleted. Another reason is the widespread corruption in the VGF program, an initiative by the government.

A special program of Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) has been started in Rangpur to help many people affected by monga. A total of 1,17,300 cards have been issued and 1,17,300 metric tons of rice has been allocated for the poor and landless people. But corruption is rife in the matter of distribution of cards and relief goods. Fifty percent of cards are distributed among ruling party members; of the rest twenty per cent are shared out among chairman, members and high officials of the society. Only the remaining twenty-five percent go to the poor and landless people. Under govt. directive, each cardholder is to get 10 kg food grain. But the cardholder receives only 7 to 8 kg.

So it seems that sheer mismanagement and lack of preparedness of the respective govt. sector is the root cause of this famine. There has been much talk about this in the political arena. The opposition is trying to exaggerate the facts to portray the failure of the ruling govt. They are naming it a devastating famine. Whereas the ruling party is telling that proper measures have been taken and the situation is not so worse. When the harvesting season starts, agricultural workers will have jobs and this situation will improve.

But its true that people are suffering and the govt. aids are not reaching the real needy people. The main city markets of the country are buzzing with activities as large-scale consumptions are being made for the coming Eid Festival. People have no shortage of money. But what would happen to the poor people of those eight districts. Many have no jobs and can barely sustain themselves. They would have a hard time in this Eid while the rest of the country celebrates. I am really depressed about it and many questions remain unanswered like why the food for work program has not been carried out this year. The govt. is busy defending their stand while nobody else is there to end the affected people�s sufferings.


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