One-time cash transfer directly to beneficiaries' bank accounts
Bangladesh has announced a cash aid package for daily wage earners as the ongoing coronavirus lockdown has robbed them of their earnings.
In an address to the nation Monday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rolled out a Tk 760crore scheme for the people hardest hit in the countrywide shutdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“Instructions have already been given to list day labourers, rickshaw pullers, transport workers, construction workers, newspaper hawkers, restaurant and hotel staff, and others who have lost jobs due to the general holiday or partial lockdown,” she said.
The one-time cash assistance will be deposited to the workers’ bank accounts as soon as the list is available.
For daily wage earners, the lockdown has come as a storm at very short notice, giving them little time to prepare for the consequences and threatening to take away everything they managed to build and save.
The prime minister opened her televised address on the eve of the Bangla New Year, with hopes to beat the coronavirus darkness.
“The (coronavirus) darkness which has engulfed the world will end one day and we will once again enter a new sunlit day,” she said.
Safeguarding the marginalized
Apart from the aid package for day wagers, the prime minister highlighted other schemes adopted by her administration for marginalized people affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
As much as half a million metric tons of rice and another 100,000 metric tons of wheat worth Tk 2,503 crore have been allocated as food aid for low-income groups, she said.
For the poor in urban areas, 74,000 metric tons of rice will be distributed under the OMS scheme which will sell the staple at Tk 10 per kg, the prime minister said, before adding: “The government had to allot Tk251 crore for the scheme.”
Hasina said the social safety net coverage will be expanded as well.
As much as Tk 815 crore has been allocated to widen the allowances for elderly citizens, widows, and women abandoned by their husbands, to hundred percent in the 100 most poverty-stricken upazilas, according to the prime minister.
The government will continue with its scheme to build homes for the homeless, which was adopted as a part of observing Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary, said Hasina.
“A total of Tk 2,130 crore will be allocated for the project and no one in this country will remain homeless,” she added.
“Don’t lose morale”
Thanking healthcare workers for their role in the coronavirus battle, the prime minister said the whole nation is beside them.
“Doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers continue to treat Covid-19 patients from the frontlines, ignoring the constraint of resources and the risk of death. Your profession is a challenging one. Don't lose morale during this crisis. The people of the country are beside you,” she said.
She said a Tk 100 crore fund has been set aside for special honorariums and that the government has already directed all those concerned to prepare a list of health workers who directly deal with coronavirus-infected patients.
The prime minister assured citizens that there was no shortage of safety equipment and urged healthcare workers to continue treating patients to the best of their abilities and keeping themselves protected.
“I would also request authorities at all private and public hospitals to ensure that regular (non Covid-19) patients are not neglected," she added.
Hasina also announced insurance plans for public servants, including doctors, in the fight against Covid-19.
Healthcare professionals, field-level administration officers, law-enforcement and other frontline responders will be covered by health insurances between Tk 5 lakh and Tk 10 lakh, depending on their rank.
The coverage will increase five-fold in case of death from the disease.
"We are arranging an insurance plan for doctors, nurses, health workers, field administration officers, members of law enforcement, the Armed Forces and BGB, as well as other officials who are directly engaging in the battle against the coronavirus," said the prime minister.
No food crisis
The prime minister assured citizens that government warehouses and producers had adequate foodgrains in stock.
Hasina said she was expecting a bumper crop of Boro rice this season, just like the Aman crops this year.
Special measures have been taken to maintain the supply and distribution of food and agricultural products, she added.
“Celebrate Pohela Baishakh at home”
Prime Minister Hasina opened her speech wishing “everyone in Bangladesh and abroad a happy Bangla New Year.”
This year the entire country is welcoming the Bangla new year of 1427 staying indoors amid the coronavirus lockdown.
In her address, the prime minister said that the programmes of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary and the March 26 Independence Day were held without any gathering and were broadcast over radio, TV and digital media.
“We will celebrate Pahela Baishakh in the same way. We will celebrate the Bangla New Year at home,” she said.
Noting the traditional events and rituals of the Bangla New Year, she urged the nation to celebrate Pahela Baishakh at home with seasonal fruits.
“Please don’t leave home without any reason. Follow the health rules. Protect yourselves and your families from coronavirus infection,” Hasina said.