Access to Public Services: As marginalised as discriminated
The country's marginalised people are facing discriminatory attitudes in many cases while seeking government services and benefits, found a study by Transparency International Bangladesh.
It revealed that marginalised people are subjected to harassment, obstacle and threat by local public representatives and a section of government officials when they file complaints against the discriminatory attitudes.
The study titled "Access of Marginalised Communities to Public Services: An Assessment of Accountability Mechanisms", however, said the activities of non-government organisations play a positive role in responding to the needs of the marginalised people.
The anti-graft watchdog released the study at a webinar yesterday.
The main objective of the study was to assess the state of access to, and exercise of the existing institutional accountability system by the marginalised people in receiving various public services.
The data for the study was collected between October 2020 and September 2021.
According to TIB, Bangladesh is home to at least 30 million marginalised people based on race, religious identity, caste, ethnicity, occupation, and different trait-based identity.
Marginalisation refers to a process by which a group of people or an individual is denied access to important positions and symbols of economic, religious or political power within any society.
Talking about the study, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said children of marginalised people face racist attitude in educational institutions.
He said such a mentality by the teachers institutionalises the racist behaviour towards the marginalised people.
NO SOLUTION TO COMPLAINTS
The research has found that allegations of racist behaviour by "mainstream" classmates and teachers in schools are not resolved.
Rather, some students and parents have also been made victims of negative comments from teachers in the wake of the allegations.
In one place, there were allegations of Dalit students failing exams due to protests by them against their teachers who made them clean school toilets.
After filing of a written complaint with the upazila nirbahi officer concerned regarding the incident, the UNO formed an investigation committee comprising the upazila education officer and the upazila social service officer.
The officials threatened the parents that filing a complaint against a government official would not produce any good results. The matter remained unresolved, said the TIB.
The graft watchdog said access to services and accountability structures of healthcare institutions is hampered due to Dalit identity and it becomes more difficult for them to file a complaint if they do not receive services.
According to the study, transgender people were not allowed to stand in queues for the government's relief assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When they wanted to file a complaint with the elected representatives about this, the staff of the ward commissioner's office concerned did not let them do that.
COMPLAINTS NOT ADDRESSED
During the pandemic, not all families living in a Dalit colony received relief assistance, the TIB said.
There are instances where no solutions were being found by complaining to the deputy commissioner about the lists for relief. In this regard, the deputy commissioner concerned said, "I am here to support the elected representatives. I cannot interfere in the list made by the elected representatives."
The research also found that marginalised people have negative experiences after filing complaints.
For example, a local UNO gave written instructions to owners of a restaurant to arrange separate seating areas and utensils for Dalits in the wake of allegations that they were prevented from entering and eating at restaurants.
LACK OF SUPERVISION
The TIB research further found that supervision of the complaint system is not integrated. People from the indigenous community filed written complaints about education, land and social security programmes with the offices concerned. But due to their indigenous identities, there are instances of complaints not being recorded, preserved in the register and followed up.
The lack of precise data on marginalised people is a major obstacle to providing access, the study added.
The TIB made 10 recommendations, including eliminating barriers to the inclusion of marginalised people in various services, ensuring non-discriminatory and accountable services and enacting anti-discrimination act.
It also suggested ensuring proper and regular publicity of the services and accountability system of the government agencies at the field level and in all media in the language of marginalised communities.