Hill Voice, 8 June 2020, Dhaka: A virtual discussion meeting titled ‘National Budget for Rural Women, Indigenous Peoples and Land Reforms’ was held on 7 June 2020 Sunday organized by the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) in collaboration with research institute HDRC.
The discussion was chaired by Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kari, and was attended by panel discussants, namely, Sanjeeb Drong, General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum; Yan Yan, Advisor of Chakma Circle; Journalist Abu Sayeed Khan, Mobin Jinnah, Sirajul Islam, Shamsul Islam, Theophil Nakrek et al.
ALRD Executive Director Shamsul Huda made the introductory speech. He said there is no reflection of the working, agrarian people who have contributed the most to the development of the country in the last 50 years after independence in most cases including national plans and budget allocations. This requires a change of attitude.
Eminent economist Abul Barkat presented the keynote paper. He said the per capita budget allocation was 26 to 28 per cent less for the indigenous peoples in all regions of the country and 48 to 48 per cent less for the indigenous peoples of the plains.
He added that there is no specific project for the indigenous peoples in the national budget. Whatever name is given to them, only a small part of it reaches them. He proposed three times more per capita allocation of the national average for each indigenous people, i.e. Tk 11,149 crore in the forthcoming budget.
During the panel discussion, Yan Yan, an adviser to the Chakma Circle, said that in the budget for the next financial year, special allocations need to be made for marginalized and indigenous peoples, taking into account the situation of COVID and post-COVID.
She demanded rations for at least five to six months for the poorest and marginalized people and an increased budget for education and health in remote areas, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts region.
Journalist Abu Sayeed Khan said the existing state social protection for marginalized people needs to be doubled.
Sanjeeb Drong of the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum demanded to the Prime Minister’s Office to include indigenous-friendly representatives in the management of development assistance projects for special areas.
Other speakers said that the plight of the indigenous peoples has been exacerbated by the epidemic of COVID-19. They need more than Taka 11 thousand crore allocation. He also demanded the introduction of rations for the poor people of these indigenous communities.