A LARGE number of Bangladeshis living abroad are denied the benefits of dedicated government services as they are not enlisted with the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board. In this context, the government initiative to register Bangladeshi diaspora with the board is a commendable step. However, the initiative to get Bangladeshi diaspora regi0stered, as New Age reported on Thursday, drew poor response because of low credibility of the government plans and low-performing services. Since June 9, 2017, only 4,904 non-resident Bangladeshis living in 10 countries chose to register with the board. The number is remarkably low considering that about 1.15 crore Bangladeshis live in 166 other countries. To implement the programme, ranking board officials visited 28 cities, spending from the Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund created with hard money of migrant workers. The programme bears merit to serve the community but the government does not have the track record of supporting Bangladeshi community in need. It will, therefore, not be mistaken to suggest that spending of migrant workers’ money for unplanned and unfruitful visits of high-level delegations to European and Middle Eastern cities is unjustified.
In August 2017, a team of the ministry concerned visited Australia to formally open the registration for about 53,000 Bangladeshis there. The campaign to encourage diaspora to get registered with board led by the delegation from Bangladesh, however, fell flat as the community lacks faith in government services. The blunt failure of the delegation, according to diaspora community, shows that the authorities concerned are less interested in extending the welfare services reach and more interested in visiting foreign cities. Migrant rights campaigners supported their claims as well. They complained that offices abroad have not been able to serve those who are listed, without addressing the existing problems in the welfare services system that caused this distrust in government initiatives. The mere presence of the high-level delegates will not motivate people to get registered. Hence, the campaigners rightly blasted the spending of money from workers’ welfare fund. This is, however, not the first time that the government injudiciously spent money from this fund.
On various occasions, audit report of the fund administration revealed that in most cases, the fund was reportedly used for other expenses of the missions concerned in contrary to objectives of welfare fund formation.
The government, under the circumstances, must revisit the implementation plan of the Bangladeshi diaspora registration programme and attend to the grievances, including low-performing services of the board, of the community. In addition, it must investigate the allegation of injudicious spending of the fund on matters other than workers’ welfare. When a countless number of Bangladeshis are toiling in foreign jail and their call for help remains unheard, the government cannot expect diaspora community to casually register, paying a hefty amount, for elusive welfare services that they never received. To make the programme successful, the government must address the root cause of the prevailing distrust in its services.
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