Handing over 66,189 newly built houses to homeless people on a single day under a government programme is unique and perhaps unprecedented in the chronicle of governance anywhere in the world. Homeless people from Kathaltala village in Khulna to Nizbari village in Nilphamari and Kartali village in Habiganj to Salla village in Chapainawabganj received this precious gift under a government programme marking the MujibBorsho (year dedicated to the memory of father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) and the 50th year of independence. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina looks forward to giving such a house to every homeless family or person. Another 3,715 families have also been rehabilitated in barracks, marking the MujibBorsho under the government's Ashrayan-2 project. Earlier, 600 climate refugee families were sheltered in 20 five-storey buildings at Khuruskul, Cox's Bazar. The plan is to rehabilitate 4,409 climate refugee families in 139 such building to be built there in total.
It was an occasion for great celebration. The prime minister was unequivocal to declare so. For the homeless who got the ownership of a well-furnished house to live in at a time of biting cold, it appeared as a gift from the heaven and no wonder they became deeply emotional. But it was an emotion that brought tears of happiness streaming down from many of their eyes and at the same time a smile on their lips. Indeed, no celebration can be greater than the one that makes the poor and most vulnerable so happy and thankful. Every citizen of this country will be hoping for unfolding the most auspicious day when it will get rid of homelessness once and for all. Even the richest country on the planet has homelessness as a most prickly problem with as many as 567,715 people without shelter.
Clearly, progress in arranging shelter for the landless and homeless by the government is remarkable. But reports have it that 5.0 million people in the country are homeless and 124 million people live in mud houses. There is still a long way to go before this problem is fully addressed. What is significant is that despite some irregularities at the grass-roots level, such housing projects have achieved targets in some areas. Lessons learnt in successful implementation of such housing projects will have to be applied to new projects. Let the government's sincerity count at the grass-roots level as well. Those in charge found guilty of nepotism and other malpractices in allocation of houses and construction of those should be awarded exemplary punishment.
Last but not least, owning a house free of cost is one thing and maintaining it sustainably is a completely different matter. It surely is an investment in the poor but then the owners have to have the means to become solvent enough to live in it. They must have livelihoods matching their skills. It is good to know that the recipient of homes will be given training in various trades and skills. This is, in fact, more challenging than constructing shelters for them. Their employment will decide their fate. The bottom line is to raise their ---in fact of all people lying at the bottom rung ---living standard to a decent level in order to reduce socio-economic disparities.