Fifty-year-old Jhuma Sarder, an inhabitant of Atlia union under Dumuria upazila in Khulna district, had been exposed to a state of wilderness after the death of her landless and homeless husband just after one year of their marriage.
Since losing the husband in early days of marriage is considered as a “stigma” for the rural women as per prejudices, Jhuma’s fate prompted her to live at her paternal house tolerating the social negligence.“I lost my husband after one year of our marriage that severely damaged my image and pushed me to social abhorrence,” she told BSS correspondent while visiting the ‘Ashrayan Prakalpa’ site at Knathaltola Bazar in Atlia union where she has been rehabilitated.
Recalling the hardship throughout her life, Jhuma became emotional and broke into tears saying, “I had promised not to get married again. I fostered my sister’s daughter after her mother’s untimely death and earned livelihood working at others’ houses.”
But living at father’s house is very much disgraceful and painful for the women like her as many neighbours use to hurl caustic comments on them, Jhuma said.
She, however, is now one of the fortunates who got homes with ownership of land under the first phase of the ‘Ashrayan-2 Prakalpa’ at Knathaltola Bazar at Atlia union in January last.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed over 24 houses to homeless and landless families there along with providing a total of 69,904 houses across the country on January 23 under the first phase of the project.
“Our affectionate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has freed us from the social stigma and deprivation, giving us a social status. Now I’ve a home on my own land and none can tell me to move away,” Jhuma said with a smiling face.This house helps her feel proud and improves economic condition since her niece has got married and she can now save money after meeting her daily expenses.
“I wish a long and healthy life for our mother Sheikh Hasina,” Jhuma said.
Like Jhuma, 40-year-old van puller Nimai Das, who used to lead a miserable life at a rented house in a village, has also been rehabilitated there with his five-member family.
He went through an economic hardship with his small income coming from van pulling while he had to think about parking his van after coming back from work.
“It was very hard to manage daily expenses, including house rent, and grow up two children with my small income while making a new house was just like a luxurious matter for us,” Nimai said.
Pointing out that the value of one decimal land there is at least Taka 100,000, he said, “I could never buy two decimals of land with income of my whole life”.
But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made it possible giving us a permanent shelter with her kindness, he said, adding, “Having own land and home was out of my dream. This house is not merely a postal address for us rather it provided us social dignity.”
Along with getting permanent abode, Nimai’s economic condition is also improving gradually since he has not to pay any penny for house rent.
“I can now save money even after meeting all expenses of my family including educational expenditure of children thanks to generosity of honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” he said.
Besides, about 32 homeless and landless families were also rehabilitated at Malenga Kheyaghat on the bank of Modhumoti Billrun Channel at Faridaspur and Fhulpur unions of Gopalganj Sadar upazila on January 23.
Forty-five-year-old Rajia Begum, who has been rehabilitated there after leading a floating life for the last 10 years since the river Madhumoti eroded her home, said she used to spend money for shifting her house from one place to another.
“We had been living on other’s land building a makeshift house as living on other’s land depends on his/her wish. We had to shift our house frequently which prompted us to spend most of the earning behind making home,” she said.
Recalling that they had to face social negligence during the floating life, Rajia said but the gift of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the occasion of the ‘Mujib Year’ honored “us with social dignity and pride”.
“We can now save the money that helps us to improve our living standard … now we can sleep in peace as we’ve own shelter,” she said.
“May the Almighty Allah give felicitous rewards to our affectionate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for providing us a permanent address,” she added.
According to Ashrayan-2 Prakalpa Project Director Md Mahbub Hossain, the government prepared a list of 885,622 families in 2020, of which 293,361 families are landless and homeless and 592,261 families have 1-10 decimal land but no housing facility.
Of them 69,904 houses were handed over on January 23 while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to hand over 53,340 more houses under the second phase of the project on June 20.
The government also rehabilitated 600 climate refugees in 20 five-storey buildings at Khurushkul in Cox’s Bazar last year.
The Ashrayan Prakalpa has rehabilitated about 475,000 landless and homeless families from 1997 to till May this year.