Helping the poor in shutdown: Every MP still not on board | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:34 AM, April 05, 2020

Helping the poor in shutdown: Every MP still not on board

While organisations and individuals keep coming up with support for the poor amid the countrywide shutdown, many lawmakers are yet to be seen on the ground.

The civil administration and police, with the assistance of upazila and union parishad chairmen, have been distributing relief materials among the needy.

The army has also started assisting local administration in divisional cities and district towns in ensuring social distancing and implementing other protective measures.

But there are lawmakers who are still nowhere to be found, though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked all local representatives, including MPs, to stand by the people in this time of crisis. 

Some briefly visited their areas only to take part in "token" relief activities. A few lawmakers are, however, taking some initiatives in their localities.

Hasina, on Tuesday, exchanged views with public representatives and field-level government officials through videoconferencing from the Gono Bhaban.

Besides, in her 31-point directive issued on Friday, she said, "Local public representatives, political leaders, people of all stages of the society will have to work together. The administration will have to work engaging all the people."

On March 23, the government announced the closure of all public and private offices from March 26 to April 4 -- later extending it till April 11. Operations of all public transport services were also suspended.

GROUND REPORTS 

Only one out of the five lawmakers in Sunamganj district visited their constituencies since the country reported the first three coronavirus cases on March 8, according to a local journalist of a Bangla daily.

Mouazzam Hossain Ratan, the lone MP to visit the district, however, drew criticism on social media as he was wearing PPE while distributing leaflets to create awareness about COVID-19.

The prime minister issued a clear directive that only physicians, nurses, and attendants of patients will use personal protective equipment (PPE). There is reportedly a huge shortage of PPE in the country.

However, Shamima Akter Khanam, an AL lawmaker from reserved seat, has been working in the district.

In the last month, two Manikganj lawmakers -- AM Naimur Rahman Durjoy, a former national cricketer, and acclaimed singer Momtaz Begum -- visited their constituencies for the first time on Friday. The district, in Dhaka division, has three parliamentary seats.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque, a lawmaker from Manikganj-3, last visited the constituency on March 1. However, he is currently busy with issues related to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the northern district of Lalmonirhat, two out of its three MPs have not visited their constituencies since the outbreak began.

The two lawmakers -- Social Welfare Minister Nuruzzaman Ahmed and Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader -- did not go to their areas while the third MP, Motahar Hossain, is now in his locality, reports our district correspondent.

However, Quader was seen distributing food in the capital.

In Kurigram, MP Panir Uddin Ahamed has been in his locality for many days now while Zakir Hossain, also state minister for primary and mass education, went to his constituency on Friday.

Neither of the two Jhalakathi MPs -- Amir Hossain Amu and Bazlul Haque Haroon -- has recently visited their constituencies.

In Barishal, lawmaker Zahid Faruk Shamim, also state minister for water resources, went to his area for two days last week and visited Sher-E-Bangla Medical College Hospital to supervise treatment facilities.

Pankaj Debnath, another MP, distributed food among the poor for a brief period but three other MPs were not seen in their constituencies, reports our Barishal correspondent.

In Khulna, three lawmakers were in the field for one day; two other MPs are working in their localities, and the other MP is sick.

Another Khulna MP is staying at home and not allowing anyone near his residence in fear of the virus, reports our district correspondent.

In Dinajpur, two MPs -- Manoranjan Shil Gopal and Shibli Sadeeq -- are now in their areas and taking part in relief distribution while four others have not visited their localities so far.

Out of six Brahmanbaria MPs, only two -- Bodruddoza Md Farhad Hossain and AB Tajul Islam -- were seen in their constituencies.

MORAL OBLIGATION

Transparency International Bangladesh's Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said time to prove their worth as public representatives is now more than ever.

"From both political and ethical points of view they are expected to take part in helping social distancing as well as distribution of supplies and other support that the people need most, especially the most disadvantaged."

Public representatives have the capacity, authority and responsibility to take this role more than most others, he added.

"It is disappointing that many of them seem to have failed to lead by example which the people expect of them," he told The Daily Star on Thursday.

"Public representatives are also subject to health and safety risks in this extraordinary context, which may be suggested as a justification for their lesser than expected level of participation in support of respective communities."

However, he said, while it cannot be imposed on anyone, since they claim to be public representatives they should be aware that crises like this is the moment of test of their sense of responsibility to the people to whom they will go back to secure the mandate again, legitimately or not.

Contacted yesterday, Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said although there are risks, lawmakers should stand by people in their constituencies, taking the necessary health safety measures.

"As public representatives, it's is our moral obligation to stand by people during any calamities," said Hanif, also a lawmaker from Kushtia, who is now in his constituency.

Asked whether the party would give any instructions to MPs who are not visiting their areas, Hanif said, "The prime minister is likely to issue directives from a press conference she is going to hold tomorrow [today]."

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