We appreciate the government's initiative to distribute free rice to the extreme poor people ahead of Eid-ul-Azha. The food aid will be given to one crore VGF (Vulnerable Group Feeding) cardholders across the country to mitigate their sufferings due to flood and coronavirus outbreak. Under the initiative, each person will get 10 kilogrammes of rice for free. While we commend this initiative for the extreme poor and destitute people, we must remind the authorities that they should also provide food assistance to the people who have become newly poor due to the pandemic.
The number of poor people in the urban areas has increased by a large proportion in the last few months as many rickshaw and rickshaw-van pullers, transport and construction workers, street hawkers, day labourers, garment workers and domestic help lost their livelihoods. These people also need the government's food assistance before Eid.
It is good to learn that the government has set some 12 criteria of which at least four will have to be fulfilled by a person to be eligible for receiving the assistance. The criteria include landless households or those who have only homesteads; households dependent on daily wage labour; households dependent on women's income or begging; households headed by widowed, divorced or separated women, etc. The disaster management and relief ministry's directive to redistribute the VGF cards in unions and wards based on the 2011 census is also very important since many cardholders may have died by this time, while many others may not be eligible for the assistance anymore.
We hope that this time there will be no corruption in the process of providing food assistance to these vulnerable people. We have seen in the recent past how the government's efforts to provide relief to the pandemic-affected people were marred by corruption as some members of the ruling party as well as local public representatives misappropriated relief materials meant for the poor. Anomalies in the database of people eligible for the government's assistance were also reported in the media when the government went for distributing cash incentives to the extreme poor in May, before Eid-ul-Fitr.
We hope this time any corruption in making the list and also in relief distribution will be checked through proper monitoring. And as we have mentioned earlier, the government should also provide food assistance to the urban slum dwellers, who have slipped into poverty due to the pandemic.