As the national budget is allocated among ministries, every ministry should have a dedicated budget for indigenous people, said rights activists and members of a parliamentary caucus on indigenous and ethnic minority in an virtual discussion yesterday.
They also suggested forming a national commission for indigenous people living in hills and plains. Besides, they discussed increasing budgetary allocation, and proper incentive packages for indigenous people during the pandemic.
Parliamentary Caucus on Indigenous and Ethnic Minority organised the event to discuss the inclusion of indigenous peoples' demand in the upcoming budget of 2021-2022.
While presenting a keynote paper, Sanjeeb Drong, technocrat member of the caucus, said, "Budget allocation goes to ministries, and as there's no separate ministry for plain land indigenous people, they don't get proper support. If every ministry had a fixed budget for indigenous people, it would have been better."
"In the last two to three years, the ministry of fisheries and livestock had a fixed budget for plain land indigenous peasants. It helped the community a lot." He added.
He also said, "There is an allocation from the Prime minister's office for indigenous people, particularly for scholarships. If there was also a committee composed of indigenous leaders, then it could actually help in finding indigenous students [who require support]."
Lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon said although there is a separate ministry and budget allocation for indigenous people of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), plain land indigenous people don't have those. Besides, formation of a land commission or ministry for plainland indigenous people has not happened yet.
He also criticised some of the governments' bureaucrats for not taking indigenous issues positively, and blamed it as one of the causes for the current problem that exists in hills and plain lands.
Lawmaker Hasanul Haq Inu said, "Till now, there's no combined programme on indigenous issues. Therefore, there's no proper plan on social, political and financial sectors for indigenous people. The plans that so far have been there are irregular."
Admitting that allocation for indigenous people is not adequate, he suggested forming a commission for both plain and hill living indigenous people.
He also agreed that there should be more, special allocation for indigenous people during this pandemic.
Raising transparency issues in different projects in CHT, Chakma Circle Chief Raja Debashish Roy said it is not clear how the money is spent of the budget allocated and in projects taken for CHT.
He also said many outsiders are allowed to take lease of land in the hill area, which is a violation of the CHT pact.
The caucus coordinator and DU Professor Mesbah Kamal shed light on online education and lack of equipment for indigenous students in remote areas, and demanded investment in this regard.
"Now, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure proper equipment such as cell phones and internet, so that they get proper education," he said.
Regarding collecting proper data on indigenous people, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque said, "The government can collect data of indigenous people from the upazila level through primary teachers. It will help the government create an accurate tally of indigenous people and make plans for them."
Lawmaker Fazle Hossain Badsha and reserved seat MP Aroma Dutta were also present at the programme.