The government’s social safety programmes such as Test Relief and Food for Works (Khabika) for ultra poor families across the country, if could be implemented in a substantive and meaningful way, could bring multifarious benefits. It could remedy, even if partially, the problem of malnutrition of poor families. It could alleviate hunger. And it could be a major thrust towards poverty alleviation. But sadly, the poor have long been deprived or cheated out of the benefits of these special programmes taken by the state to alleviate poverty.
Against this backdrop, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) is reportedly gearing up its fight against corruption in different social safety programmes. It is welcome. The ACC said that it has received a huge number of complaints regarding the social safety net programmes. Upon investigation the ACC found that many of such complaints of irregularities and corruption are genuine.Take the example of the government’s initiative to provide rice at Tk 10 per kg to 50 lakh ultra poor families across the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched the programme in 2016 in line with her party’s election manifesto. But in previous two years, since the project was launched, there were widespread irregularities in the selection of the beneficiaries and distribution of rice. Media report has also been abound that many of those who were awarded the tender to sell the rice to the poor sold it directly to the market. On the other hand, names of many affluent people were found in the list of ultra-poor people eligible for buying rice at the subsidised rate. Thus welfare projects taken by government got waylaid before it reached the poor.
The effects of corruption are devastating for the poor; it leaves them without food, job and healthcare. That means you cannot eradicate poverty unless you eradicate corruption.
The government should no longer turn a blind eye to widespread corruption in our system of governance which keeps the poor, poor. So, it is time to launch a determined drive against corruption which has long been overdue.