An intensified campaign during the ongoing ‘Mujib Year’ specially brought an extra fortune for some 8,000 ethnic minority poorer families alongside other vulnerable people nationwide.
They have got a permanent address under a government initiative marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for all landless and homeless families across the country.
Sexagenarian Sardar Saren passed 65 years of her life in a makeshift shanty erected on a piece of government land.
This elderly member of Santhal community, one of oldest ethnic groups to settle in deltaic soil of what is now Bangladesh, of late found a permanent abode in Morabostapukor area of Kandia union under Gobindaganj upazila in Gaibandha.
“I’ve been living in the neighbourhood here since my birth . . . having no piece of land of my own . . . as a day labourer with six family members, I did not have the ability to procure any land either,” he said.
One of those fortunate to get a permanent address, Saren emotionally recalled in the past days when with two widow daughters and a grandson the family of six languished in the hut which the rain and storm-damaged several times.
Saren emotionally looked back to the shabby hut while walked towards his new nearby abode – a concrete-made house with a tin-made roof built for the ethnic minority people under the premier’s initiative to improve the living standard of ethnic minority groups living on plain land.
This is a two-room accommodation having a kitchen, a toilet and a veranda on a two decimal of land, entirely under his legal possession.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed over houses to Sarder and fellow recipients during a virtual programme on January 23 along with ownership documents of two decimal of land to over 69,904 homeless and landless families each simultaneously to mark the ‘Mujib Year’.
According to officials familiar with the project, 4,500 families belonging to different ethnic minority families in rugged south-eastern hill tracts were provided permanent abodes by now.
Works are now underway to allocate permanent accommodations for vulnerable families of different ethnic minority communities on plain lands throughout the country.
Like Sarder, a total of 50 families of the Santhal community who were leading a similar life were rehabilitated in the Morabostapukur area of Gabindaganj upazila of Rangpur district.
“It’s just like a daydream that I’ll now live in a semi-pucca house with all facilities. None but our affectionate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina realized our pain . . . it is not merely a house, a postal address as well,” Saren said.
Gabindaganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Ram Krishna Barman said a total of 70 families of different ethnic groups have been rehabilitated under the Prime Minister’s Office’s (PMO) initiative.
PMO Secretary Md Tofazzel Hossain Miah said marking the ‘Mujib Year’ Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is giving a total 3,500 houses as gift to landless and homeless people of ethnic minority groups who live on plain lands across the country.
Along with houses, the school-going children of the ethnic groups are also given bicycles and stipends so that they can get access to education easily, he said.
Apart from the ethnic minorities living on the plain lands, the PMO secretary, said the ethnic minority groups living in the three Hill Tracts districts — Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari — were given identical homes with same facilities.
“A total of 4,500 houses have already been handed over to the ethnic minorities living in hill tracts,” Miah said.
During a visit to Rangpur, this correspondent found that a total of 25 families of ‘Taruni Das’ community were rehabilitated with tin-shed houses having two rooms and floor under the project at Ghanirampur Borogula village of Taraganj upazila there.
The families were also given five toilets — one for every five families.
Sexagenarian Sabitri Rani Das, who had lost her husband four decades ago, was living in a clay-made hut for the last 40 years with his two sons.
As a member of ‘Taruni Das’ community who usually makes their livelihood by selling bamboo-made products, she was leading a miserable life with her little income coming from the cottage industry.
“It was very hard to manage daily essentials and grow up two sons with only income come from cottage product while making a new house was just like a luxurious matter for us,” Sabitri said.
A wide smile illuminated her face as she talked to this reporter clearly being the owner of a new permanent home.
“Our fate has changed now . . . we’re very much grateful to our affectionate prime minister for it,” said Sabitri.