In a recently concluded national workshop that brought together development practitioners and researchers, the subject of discussion was how to make national development relative to the poor marginalised and excluded groups. People eking out a living like tea workers, sweepers, dalits, sex workers, barbers, washer-men and women, etc. constitute the marginalised and the various social safety net programmes are not designed to reach any of these excluded groups who number anywhere between 500,000 to 800,000 people. While the government has invested heavily in major infrastructure programmes that have expanded road, rail and energy sectors and benefitted mainstream segments of the population attention has not been paid to the excluded groups who continue to remain outside the focus of government interventions – either economic or social.
Many of these groups remain entrenched in poverty as the trades or professions they are engaged in have been passed down from generation to generation. The hurdles they face are in the areas of access to health, education and voting rights. That they have been ignored since the country gained independence is most unfortunate. However, we are happy to see that a census is being carried out to assess the number of people belonging to the marginalised communities and that should provide the government with the information to design programmes to help get some of the social welfare programmes through various ministries and departments, to those who need it most. Bangladesh has taken giant steps to reduce extreme poverty but that success will not be complete unless the marginalised are also taken into account.