A study by CPD, Oxfam and the European Union on the government's relief distribution patterns found that relief for Covid and Amphan-hit people did not reach those who needed it the most. The organisations studied the relief distribution patterns in 13 districts and recently shared their findings about Pirojpur district, which has the highest poverty rate among the districts studied. It was revealed that the upazilas of Pirojpur where the poverty rate is the highest received the least amount of relief and cash incentives. For instance, although most people in the Kaukhali upazila of Pirojpur live below the poverty line, it received only 9.1 percent of relief rice and 5.7 percent of the cash allocated for the district.
We believe the study findings will be very helpful to the government in reaching out to the people who are still in need of cash and relief assistance. The study revealed that the list of the beneficiaries could not be made on time, as there was a lack of proper direction from the government in this regard, and the field level workers also did not get much time to prepare the list. Many of the beneficiaries of the district did not have access to digital financial services, which was another problem in providing them the cash. Furthermore, many of those who left the cities during the lockdown and came back to their village homes did not receive any assistance from the government. Another major problem was that the district coordination team did not have data about the number of beneficiaries in the upazilas, and what the upazila-wise allocation of relief was, according to CPD.
Previously, Transparency International Bangladesh also conducted surveys on government's cash incentives and OMS programmes and found that a large portion of people in need did not receive any assistance because of corruption and irregularities in the system.
Since the loopholes in our relief distribution system have been identified in several studies, the government should now address those with urgency. This includes completing the list of people eligible and reaching the relief to these people while making sure that there are no irregularities in either the list or relief distribution. There has to be a proper system of accountability to find out why the distribution was so inefficient and how much of the cash and other relief have been left undistributed. Needless to say, the government's relief and cash distribution programmes will hardly see any success in future if those who need its assistance the most are left behind.