When the news spread among local residents, it led to a huge uproar and provoked mass criticism
Affluent and influential people have allegedly sidelined poor and marginalized villagers to appear on the list of beneficiaries for the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund in Rasulpur union of Sadullahpur upazila in Gaibandha.
711 people have enlisted for the benefit scheme—who will all supposedly be eligible for Tk2,500 in cash, among other relief items.
The fund was formed to help the poor cope with the financial hardship they are currently facing due to the Covid-19 fallout.
However, upon acquiring a copy of the list, this correspondent found that a number of enlisted in fact do not qualify for the assistance meant for the poor, as they are financially well-off.
When the news spread among local residents, it led to a huge uproar and provoked mass criticism.
Jahangir Alam's son, Abdullah Al Mamun, is one such person, serial number 347 on the list. Jahangir owns 40 bighas of farmland and has a rice husking mill in Chhandiapur market, which doesn’t make him one of the poor.
At number 346 and 350, Atwar Rahman and Altaf Hossain are also on the list, both of whom jointly own at least 20 bighas of land.
Along with them, Rasulpur Union Parishad (UP) Chairman, UP members, their relatives and supporters have also wrongfully included themselves in the list.
UP chairman Rabiul Islam Dula alone has enlisted 10 of his financially well-off relatives under the pretence of impoverished day labourers.
They are: UP chairman's sister Bulbuli Begum, his uncles Chan Mia and Siraj Uddin, cousins Raihan Sarkar, Kamruzzaman and Aminul Islam, sisters-in-law Lipi Begum, Firoja Begum, and Anwara Begum, and finally, niece Sharmin Akhter.
Four relatives of UP member Abdul Latif were also on the list along with several relatives of ward members Atwar Rahman and Laili Begum.
Rasulpur union Chhatra League president Md Sultan and 10 of his relatives were listed as well.
Abdul Gofur, president of Awami League’s Rasulpur union unit, said: "I urge the authorities to deliver exemplary punishment to the culprits after an investigation is conducted." He added that the purpose of the relief fund has been marred by this sort of malpractice.
The UP Chairman’s personal secretary Harun and three of his relatives were also included in the relief fund list.
Asked, UP member Abdul Latif was seemingly oblivious to the fact that his and his relatives’ names appeared on the PM Relief Fund list.
Ward member Atwar Miya said their names were included as they fulfil the eligibility criteria. Rasulpur union chairman Rabiul also expressed the same sentiment.
Md Sultan, Rasulpur union unit Chhatra League president, said: "My relatives and I aren’t well-off and so we are on the list."
When the matter came to the local administration’s attention, Sadullahpur Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Md Nabinewaz said swift action will be taken if specific complaints are lodged with the UNO office regarding such irregularities.
Advocate Umme Kulsum Smriti, the local lawmaker from Gaibandha 3, said: "Strict action will be taken after an investigation is launched into the matter. People found to be involved in such malpractice will not be spared."