Offering a new life to homeless | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 23, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:55 AM, January 23, 2021

Offering a new life to homeless

Govt to provide houses to 2.93 lakh families in phases on the occasion of Mujib Borsho

Asia Begum's beaming face reflected her cherished dream of living in her own house, which may become a reality as the government pledged to provide land and houses to homeless and landless people to mark Mujib Borsho.

Asia's husband died years ago and the octagenarian woman of Narayanganj's Rupganj has since had to struggle to find shelter.

She lived in her daughter's house and her son, a cattle trader, has his own family.

"Now, they [will] give me a home," she said.

She added that she wants her son, daughter-in-law and grandson to live with her.

"How can I live alone [at this age], and without them?"

For Nitai Chandra Das, 55, and his wife Bina Rani, a piece of land and a house of their own signifies self-esteem.

"Having my own house is like having a magic wand," said Nitai, a rickshaw-puller who lived in a rented house in Rupganj for more than two decades.

Both Asia and Nitai's families are hoping to get houses as part of the government's special initiative on the occasion of Mujib Borsho -- the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

To implement the initiative, the government as of June last year made a list of about 2.93 lakh families which neither have their own land nor house, according to a handout of the government's Ashrayan-2 Project.

In the first phase, the government will give land ownership and houses to some 66,189 families.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to inaugurate the handover ceremony via a video conference today.

One lakh more houses will be built by the end of February this year.

The Ashrayan-2 Project has been coordinating the initiative's implementation.

Mahbub Hossain, Ashrayan's project director, said the initiative is a unique one in the country.

He said each family will have the ownership of 2 decimals of land and a tin-roofed concrete house will be built on the land free of cost.

Each house comprises two rooms, a kitchen, a toilet, a balcony and a common space. The houses were built on khas land, he told journalists during a visit to a cluster of houses in Rupganj on Wednesday.

Building each house costs around Tk 1.71 lakh, he further said.

This correspondent, along with a group of journalists, recently visited at least two clusters of houses in Narayanganj and Kishoreganj, including the one in Rupganj, and talked to about a dozen people who became homeless due to various reasons such as river erosion.

They said having a house of their own will rekindle their hopes of overcoming various challenges and poverty.

Shetu Akhter, 35, a mother of two, said a house could save her about Tk 2,000 a month which the family would otherwise pay as house rent.

"We will have the opportunity to spend the saved money for children's education," said Shetu, whose husband drives a battery-run auto-rickshaw in Rupganj's Murapara.

Her family has been living in a rented house since Shetu got married.

Nazma Begum, who lives in Rupganj, said having a house of her own would mean she would not have to pay rent every month.

This money could be used for family expenses, she said, adding that her husband was unemployed currently and she earned about Tk 5,000 a month as a worker at a local spinning mill.

In Kishoreganj's Bajitpur, Momena, 45, lost her land, including her homestead, due to river erosion about two decades ago.

Initially, Momena and her husband had to endure severe hardship seeking refuge at neighbours' houses, none of whom would give them shelter for long.

Helpless, she even sought shelter at a local rice husking mill where she would work as a labourer.

Now, she dreams of a new life in a house of her own.

Momena said her one son and only daughter have separate families. Another son is unmarried and works at a local shoe factory.

Kishoreganj Deputy Commissioner Shamim Alam said of the 66,189 beneficiary families under the special initiative, some 616 families are listed in the district alone.

Rehabilitation of homeless people was arranged and land for them were selected following consent of the beneficiaries, he said, while addressing journalists at his office on Thursday.

Talking to reporters, Deputy Commissioner of Brahmanbaria Hayat-Ud-Dowlah Khan said the number of beneficiary families in the district is 1,091.

Officials and local public representatives were working tirelessly to make the effort a success, he said.

Ashrayan's Project Director Mahbub Hossain said the houses provided to the beneficiaries will boost their self-esteem and help them raise their children to benefit the nation in the long run.

He said the beneficiaries will be provided with basic facilities, including health, education, and utility services.

The beneficiaries' list was prepared with the help of DC and upazila nirbahi officer's offices and that elderly, widows, and persons with disabilities were given priority, said Mahbub.

Construction responsibility was not given to contractors, but done under the supervision of upazila level committees comprising UNOs, other officials, and union parishad chairmen, he added.

OTHER BENEFICIARIES

Besides the list of 2.93 lakh families, another list of 5.92 lakh families who own land, but do not have houses, or own sub-standard houses, has been prepared from all over the country as part of the Mujib Borsho initiative, said Ashrayan's PD Mahbub, also an additional secretary.

He said as part of the initiative, some 3,715 "families" of different communities, including those of the hijra community, will be rehabilitated in "barracks" in 21 districts.

The government's Ashrayan project was launched in 1997. Till December last year, some 3.20 lakh families have been rehabilitated under the project. 

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