Pandemic-hit minorities need stimulus support: Webinar

Staff Correspondent

3 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Rights groups urged the government to introduce stimulus programmes for Bangladesh’s ethnic minorities in the national budget.

They said there has been no mention of the country’s ethnic minority groups in the budget for the past couple of years.

Addressing a webinar on Sunday, the speakers also demanded providing stimulus funds to the tribal people living in the hill tracts affected badly after suspension of tourism during the pandemic.

The poverty among the ethnic groups is 60 percent, which is 64 percent in Rangamati and and 63 percent Bandarbans – two hill tract districts.

In the plain land like Dinajpur, the poverty of the ethnic is 64.3 percent, according to a keynote paper presented at the webinar.

Planning Minister MA Mannan joined the discussion as the chief guest while the member of parliaments Rashed Khan Menon and Pir Fazlur Rahman joined as special guests. Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) organized the event.

MA Mannan said the government has included the ethnic communities in the social safety net coverage for improving their livelihood.          

“The allocation for developments of ethnic groups has also been increased in last two budgets. There was an allocation of Tk 50 crore (500 million) in FY2019-20, which was increased by more that 50 percent to Tk 80 crore (800 million) in FY2020-21,” the planning minister said.

The government has allocated Tk 11.94 billion for the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, which increased to 12.35 billion in FY2020-21.

Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong presented the keynote paper while the MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam presided over the webinar titled “Specific and inclusive budget for Ethnic People.” In the keynote paper, rights activist Sanjeeb Drong mentioned that there were specific paragraphs for the ethnic groups in the budget speeches during FY2010-13.

But there has been no such mention for the community in the budget speech since 2014. “The rights of 4 million of ethnic people are being ignored in the national budget. However, the Prime Minister’s Office made a bulk allocation as ‘development aid for special region,” he said.

According to the last census in 2011, there are 1.6 million of people representing 27 ethnic groups.

Besides, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs introduced a list which included 50 ethnic groups living in the country.

National Human Rights Commission former member Nirupa Dewan recommended an advisory board with representation from the community members to bring transparency in fund allocation for them.Member Nirupa Dewan urged the government to consider the rights of the communities in the eighth fifth-year plan. Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracks Affairs Secretary Mosammat Hamida Begum and chief of Chakma Circle Barrister Debashish Roy, among others, spoke.