Reaffirming her government’s stance to be there with people until the coronavirus crisis is over, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday said this is not difficult at all to overcome any pressing problem if people remain united.
"Cyclone, [natural] calamities and pandemic will be there; we’ve to move ahead facing those. To face any calamity, united efforts of people are needed, not matter what’s it’s intensity …if people remain united it’s not tough to overcome that, and you [people] have proved that reality again," she said.
The Prime Minister said this while addressing the nation on the occasion of holy Eid ul Fitr.
State-owned Bangladesh Betar and Bangladesh Television simultaneously broadcast the Prime Minister’s address. Private television channels and radio stations also aired the speech.
In her around 15-minute speech, Sheikh Hasina said the government has been able to face the coronavirus effectively in the last two and a half months with the cooperation and support of the people of the country.
"Until this [pandemic] crisis is over, I and my government will remain beside you, Inshallah," she promised.
Life won’t stand still
The Prime Minister said the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its forecast said this coronavirus pandemic will not go away so quickly. "But life won’t stand still…we’ve to move on taking coronavirus with us as long as the vaccine is developed," she said.
Hasina said economic activities have to be resumed for the sake of lives and livelihoods.
"Most countries of the world have already compelled to relax their lockdowns because it’s not possible to restrict people's paths of income for an indefinite period. It’s not possible at all for a developing country like Bangladesh," she said.
Talking about the resumption of the economy, the Prime Minister said the government has already announced a Tk 101,117 crore stimulus package, which is 3.6 percent of the GDP.
She said 18 economic sectors, including export-oriented industries, small, medium and cottage industries, agriculture, pisciculture and poultry have been brought under this package.
To help the jobless youths and expatriates who have returned from various countries, the government has allocated Tk 2,000 crore (Tk 500 crore each) for Palli Sanchay Bank, Karmasangsthan Bank, Prabashi Kalyan Bank and Palli Karmo Sahayok Bank, she said.
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Sheikh Hasina said the bumper Boro production has come as a blessing for the country at this time of disaster. This year some 48 lakh hectares of land were brought under the Boro cultivation and the harvesting is almost complete.
She congratulated as well as greeted the farmers for playing a vital role in ensuring food security at this crucial moment.
To ensure fair prices for their produces, the Prime Minister said, the government has started the procurement of paddy and rice. This time, she said, the government will procure 22.25 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains which is two lakh metric tonnes more than the previous year.
Hasina mentioned that the government has arranged combined harvesters and reapers at subsidised prices for farmers and Tk 200 crore has been allotted to that end. An amount of Tk 5,000 crore has been allocated to give loans to the farmers at the rate of only four percent.
The incomes of shop owners have come to a halt due to the shutdown of shops and business entities, leaving their employees in untold miseries, the Prime Minister said adding that most of the shop owners do not have the financial capacity to pay wages to their employees. “As a result, they [employees] are passing their days in an inhuman condition.”
"We’ve given permission to reopen some shops before the Eid with a condition of maintaining the health rules and other systems. Those who’ve reopened shops and those go shopping, all must protect yourselves and avoid crowds," she said.
Hasina said the whole world has been devastated due to the deadly coronavirus and this pandemic caused a huge blow to the bread and butter of people apart from claiming the lives of many people.
To restrict the spread of the virus, she said, the government had to shut down offices, courts, mills, factories and business entities. “Thousands of people are now jobless …they’ve lost their jobs and sources of income.”
The Prime Minister said the government has taken all-out initiatives to help these jobless people apart from providing food assistance and distributing cash. “So far, the government has allocated 162,867 metric tonnes of rice and Tk 91,47,72,000 cash.”
She also said some 80,000 metric tonnes of rice has been allotted for selling at Tk 10 per kg, while five million cards have been distributed in May among poor families so that they can avail themselves of this opportunity.
Hasina mentioned that about Tk 1,250 crore has been distributed through mobile phones among five million families who have lost their jobs but not included in any assistance programme.
For the students and teachers of Quawmi madrassas, she said, the government provided more than Tk 17 crore in two phases while Tk 122,02,15,000 to imams and muajjins of mosques across the country.
"Besides, special steps have been taken for the marginal people and these programmes will continue until the situation returns to normalcy," she said.
One disaster follows another
Mentioning that the disaster did not come alone, Hasina devastating cyclone Amphan hit Rajshahi, Khulna, Barishal and Chittagong divisions and coastal districts at the time of coronavirus pandemic. "By the grace of the Almighty, it has been possible to avert huge losses of lives and property and our preparations."
The government evacuated 24 lakh people living in various islands, chars and coastal belts and six lakhs of cattle to cyclone shelters to avert the losses of lives, she said adding that her administration has already started distributing relief materials among the cyclone-hit people and repairing their damaged houses.
Celebrate Eid staying home
The Prime Minister urged all to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr staying home and enjoy time with their family members.
Urging all to maintain the health advice during this pandemic, Hasina said, "Your safety lies in your hand. Remember, if you remain safe then your family, neighbours and country will remain safe."
She also urged the affluent section of society not to forget the poor neighbours, villagers or the people of the respective areas at this bad time.
"Stand beside them with your ability, then your homes and hearts will be filled with the joy of Eid," she said.
To prevent the coronavirus this year, Hasina said, the government has imposed a ban on all types of mass gatherings and it will not be possible to observe holy Eid-ul-Fitr as happened in normal time. "Steps have been taken to hold Eid jamaat in mosques instead of Eidgah keeping social distancing and maintaining health rules," she said.
Terming the Eid day as a day of joy and happiness, she said this year all will communicate with their nearest and dearest ones and relatives through telephone and virtual means and share their joy and happiness with them.
Thanks to frontline warriors
Hasina thanked and conveyed her greetings to doctors, nurses, other health workers, police, BGB, Ansar and Village Defence Force, armed forces, central and field level government officials and journalists for their continuous efforts in their respective fields.
The Prime Minister said a large number of members of law enforcement agencies, doctors and health workers, members of the administration, bankers and journalists have been infected with the virus while discharging their professional duties.
Hasina said some doctors and health workers, members of the police and Ansar, employees of the administration, bankers and journalists have died, and she prayed for salvation of the departed souls and expressed her sympathy for their bereaved families.
She said the government has increased the capability of providing medical facilities several times. Alongside the public hospitals, a significant number of private hospitals have been engaged in coronavirus treatment.
The Prime Minister said the government has appointed 2,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses on an emergency basis and they have already started their works by the time. "Directives have been given to ensure the treatment of all types of patients at the hospitals," she added.
She also thanked individuals and organisations who have come forward to help the distressed people.
She thanked Chhatra League, Krishak League, Juba League, Swechhasebak League and Awami League leaders and activists for lending their support to the farmers to harvest their paddy free of cost.
"Farmers have been able to take their harvests home quickly," she said.