Too little help for flood-hit people
It was the third day he went to the bazaar in Bishwambarpur upazila, stood in a long queue for hours to buy rice and flour at subsidised prices but returned home empty handed.
Nurul Miah, aged 70, travelled by boat for more than an hour along with his family members from Chandargaon yesterday morning to reach the bazaar and then made the same journey back.
“Is it possible for us to come to sadar every day!” he said as the queue broke with the stock at the Open Market Sale (OMS) point finished.
Like Nurul, many people, from the flood-hit haor areas of Sunamganj, were refused subsidised food grains at OMS points set up at upazila and district levels because of a huge gap between government supply to the dealers and the demand.
Each OMS point can sell 1 tonne of rice and 1 tonne of flour at Tk 15 and Tk 17 a kg every day. Each upazila has three OMS points and the district bazaar nine points.
If one person buys 5Kg rice and 5 Kg flour from a point as permitted, the OMS dealer can sell the allotted rice and flour to only 200 people a day meaning maximum 600 families are allowed to buy subsidised food grains a day in one upazila.
People living in remote villages are not getting the facility at all.
Around a thousand people lined up at the OMS point in Bishwambarpur upazila, said dealer Rubel Miah.
The stock was very inadequate, and people ended up fighting for even lesser amount of rice or flour as it was getting exhausted, he added.
Against the backdrop of Boro crops having been submerged by flashfloods in the haor areas and farmers losing their livelihood, the OMS operation began on April 9, for six days a week except for Saturday for a month.
Abdur Rouf, acting district food controller of Sunamganj, said the supply was way too less than the demand, and the dealers were somehow trying to manage the huge crowd of people, often by giving them less than the allotted rice and flour per person.
The food control department has already asked the food ministry for permission to start OMS operation at the union level so that more people are benefitted, he added.
Meanwhile, there were complaints that a share of the inadequate supply of subsidised food grains was sold to shops and restaurants in Sunamganj.
“We are not getting rice standing in the line for hours, but the same rice is being sold at many stores at a high price,” said Abdul Wahid of the upazila.
This correspondent also found restaurants selling rice that came from OMS. The restaurants' authorities refused to talk about the matter.
Over the allegation of selling rice to local shops and restaurants, the district food controller said, “This is quite impossible to monitor who is buying rice from dealers, but the office is now looking into the matter.”
Another 600 tonnes of rice have been handed over to Sunamganj Relief Department for distribution among people who have VGF (Vulnerable Group Feeding) cards, he said.
LOCAL ADMINISTRATION LISTING ULTRA-POOR
The government has taken a 100-day scheme for distributing relief to at least 3.3 lakh ultra-poor families affected by flashfloods in haor areas.
For this, the district administration along with the local administration started listing ultra-poor people.
Mohammad Shaiful Islam, upazila nirbahi officer of Tahirpur, said they had got an order from the disaster and relief ministry to make a list of those who would get 30kg of rice and Tk 500 per month under the programme declared on Sunday.
It would, however, take some time to prepare the list, he added.