Delay in distribution of rice under the government’s 100-day vulnerable group feeding programme has intensified sufferings of the flood-hit people in Sunamganj.
Until Wednesday, 10 days after the distribution was inaugurated by prime minister Sheikh Hasina, the local administration could not start VGF rice distribution at more than 40 per cent of 88 unions under 11 upazilas in the district due to short supply.
The PM on April 30 formally launched the VGF programme under which 30kg rice and Tk 500 in cash per month is to be given to each of the 1.50 lakh flood-hit farmers of the district.
An inter-ministerial meeting, chaired by disaster management minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya at the secretariat on May 5, had decided to bring 50,000 fishermen, who were affected by fish mortality due to severe water pollution in the haor belt, under the 100-day VGF programme besides the affected farmers.
Administrative officials in Sunamganj, however, did not get any such directive so far to implement the government decision, sources in the administration said.
Meher Ali, a farmer of Tahirpur upazila in the district, told New Age on Wednesday that he was half-fed for many days as he could not manage sufficient foods for his seven-member family for the past over three weeks.
He said he had planted boro paddy on his 2.5 acre of land in Shanir Haor, but the
half-ripe crops went under water after the haor protection dam collapsed.
‘I bought 15 kilograms of rice at Tk 15 a kg from a dealer of the government’s open market sale programme two weeks back. But, could not buy any food grains since then as I have no cash,’ Meher continued.
‘Suffering of my family could be reduced if I could get the rice and cash money of the VGF,’ he said.
Sukumar Dash, a fisherman of village Dublarchar along the Shanir Haor at Bishabharpur upazila, alleged that he had failed to get a VGF card despite making repeated requests to the local union chairman and member.
When local people’s representatives said that the VGF was meant only for the farmers, he asked, ‘Why not the people like me? Were we not too affected by the flood this year?’
‘How shall I survive with my six-member family when all fishes of the haor have died,’ Sukumar asked further.
Sukumar said they saw a ray of hope after the government decided to provide the fishermen with VGF rice, though they did not know when the decision would be implemented.
Dharmapasha upazila chairman Abdul Motalib Khan told New Age that the government officials concerned were assuring them of beginning the VGF rice distribution immediately after receiving the allotted food grain.
‘It is not confirmed yet when the rice distribution will begin among the flood-hit people of the upazila,’ the chairman said on Wednesday afternoon.
When contacted, Sunamganj deputy commissioner Sheikh Rafiqul Islam told New Age that they did not get any directive from the government for taking any step to bring the affected fishermen under the VGF coverage still Wednesday.
He, however, claimed that the distribution of VGF rice and food grains under open market sale programme was going on in the district without any hindrance.
But, the district relief and rehabilitation officer Mahbubur Rahman admitted to New Age that they could not begin distributing rice under the 100-day VGF programme at all upazilas of the district due to supply shortage.
District food controller Mohammad Zakaria said they could not reach the rice under VGF to Dharmapasha, Bishwambharpur and Tahirpur upazila and to several unions under some other upazilas in the district still Wednesday.
He said 3,000 tonnes of rice allotted for the VGF had already reached Sunamganj and 5,000 tonnes were on the way from the country’s northern region.
‘I hope the latest consignment of the rice would reach Sunamganj within the next one or two days and the distribution of VGF rice can be run at all of the unions in full swing from next week,’ Zakaria said in the afternoon.
The list of selected farmers for the VGF cards at several unions was not completed as yet, he added.
According to the Agricultural Extension Department, standing paddy on 1,66,612 hectare out of 2,23,082 hectares wetlands in the district were damaged in the recent flash flood.
The affected farmers and rights organisations, however, claimed that almost 95 per cent of half-ripen standing boro in 154 haors of the district have been submerged by the untimely and prolonged flood in this year.
The flood was caused by excessive rainfall and onrush of water from upstream across the border in late March.
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