Many of the ultra-poor farmers in Sunamganj, the worst hit district in the early flashflood that destroyed standing boro paddy of wetlands, alleged that they were being deprived of the government’s 100-day Vulnerable Group Feeding programme due to anomalies and nepotism in distributing the VFG cards.
The distribution of VGF rice could only begin at five out of 11 upazilas in the district till Saturday amid shortage of rice supply, officials said.
The relief and disaster management ministry launched the programme to support the farmers whose boro paddy, the annual mono crop in the haor belt, were massively damaged in the late March flood.
The ministry also decided to bring 1.5 lakh ultra-poor farmer families of Sunamganj under coverage of the 100-day food support that offers 30 kilograms of rice and Tk 500 in cash every month to each of the selected families until July 31.
But, the affected poor farmers of different upazilas alleged that local union council chairmen and members, most of them involved with the activities of ruling Awami League and its front organisations, had included names of their relatives and party activists leaving out farmers genuinely affected by flooding.
Fayez Uddin, 55, of village Chandipur under Derai Municipality, was beaten by a group of supporters of the municipality mayor Mosharraf Miah on Thursday evening after he had filed a complaint with the upazila nirbahi officer protesting at irregularities in distribution of VGF cards.
In his complaint, Fayez alleged that the municipal mayor had included some of his own people in the list made for distribution of the VGF cards keeping out names of affected farmers.
Derai upazila nirbahi officer Tawfiquzzaman acknowledged receiving the complaint and said that steps would be taken if the allegation was found to be true.
Talking to New Age, Jiban Miah, a farmer at village Ramdigha of Chardani union under Dharmapasha upazila in the district, alleged that names of many of the ultra-poor farmers of his village were not included.
The local ward member had mostly included in the list his relatives and supporters, he complained.
Former chairman of Chamardani union council Pravakar Talukder Panna alleged that the current union chairman and members showed bias towards their relatives and supporters in preparing the list, ignoring the conditions of the worst affected farmers.
The union chairman, Zakirul Azad Mannan, however, rejected the allegation and said, ‘The list has been made following right procedures, involving elected representatives and after consulting with local elites’.
Abdul Awal, at village Sadarpur of Joykalash union under Dakkhin Sunamganj upazila in the district, on Saturday alleged that the relatively well-off people were provided the VGF cards while many of the ultra-poor farmers like him were not deprived.
Local union member Ashraf Ali, however, claimed that some poor people had not been given VGF cards as they were given the option of getting rice at Tk 10 per kilogram under another support programme of the government.
Awal and his neighbour Saad Uddin, Islam Uddin, Shayekh Uddin, Sufia Begum, Jamal Miah, Ala Uddin and Bijoy Dev, who were included in the other list, however, claimed that they had not been getting the benefits of any other government programme.
When contacted, the district relief and rehabilitation officer, Mahbubur Rahman, told New Age on Saturday that they had not received any specific allegation of irregularity in preparing the list for VGF cards.
‘Committees led by the UNOs have already been formed to monitor the entire process and have been instructed to take strong steps if any irregularity was found,’ Mahbubur added.
District food controller Md Zakaria Mostafa told New Age in the afternoon that they had begun the distribution of VGF rice at five upazilas as they had received around 2,000 tonnes of rice.
‘The rice distribution will begin in full swing in the rest of the upazilas from Monday,’ he said.
According to the Agricultural Extension Department, standing paddy on 1,66,612 hectors out of a total 2,23,082 hectors wetlands in the district were damaged in the flood.
Affected farmers and rights organisations, however, claim that almost 95 per cent of half-ripen standing boro in 154 small and large haors of the district have gone under water and has been damaged.