Nothing can be more painful than the act of misappropriating a sizeable part of the state allowances meant for the persons with disabilities (PWDs). Unfortunately, as alleged by the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), such an atrocious act has been taking place with no remedial measures from the relevant government agencies. Nearly 2.2 million PWDs are now on the list of the relevant government agency.
A TIB study, published late last week, alleged that from a quarter to more than 60 per cent of the allowances allocated by the state for the PWDs is misappropriated in different forms by different individuals. From lawmakers at the top down to union-level people's representatives are, allegedly, involved. Instances of fake PWDs receiving allowances regularly are also there, the TIB study has revealed.
The government has provided for constituting committees at the local level to oversee the distribution of allowances for the physically challenged persons. But those have not been effective for a variety of reasons, including the non-availability of funds to hold regular meetings and finance other activities. Such inaction by the committees has helped the crooks do all the mischief with no resistance.
The government has been overlooking another important aspect of the issue. Many of the PWDs, if trained, have the potential of becoming skilled hands. Sitting at their homes, they could produce many marketable goods. It is, thus, important to create training facilities at the local level to make many PWDs self-dependent. Still. a lot of physically challenged individuals would need financial assistance from the government continuously.
It is worthwhile to note here that the grant meant for the PWDs makes up a part of the government's a broad-based safety net programme. There have been allegations of misappropriation and other irregularities involving the entire programme. Studies have found that a part of the money earmarked for the purpose does never reach the target population. The situation, however, is now better than before because of the government's move to use improved technology to reach the beneficiaries. Yet unscrupulous elements have devised ways to divert some money meant for the poor people at the grassroots.
It is difficult to check effectively the irregularities in safety net programmes or other people's welfare schemes until and unless the graft situation gets improved at the centre of national activities. With corruption remaining pervasive at high places, it would be foolhardy to expect thatthe situation would change at the field level. The fact remains that without a notable change in the graft situation made through determined efforts at all levels, nothing would move in the right direction.
The government has been allocating resources worth billions every financial year for safety net programmes. Nothing can be more frustrating if a sizeable part of it got wasted because of corruption and inefficiency. The authorities, besides activating the local administration, should create field-level citizens' committees with persons of high integrity and honesty to keep a watch on the distribution of benefits under all safety net programmes. Such a move might yield a positive outcome.