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DHAKA: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said the government will procure 21 lakh metric tons (MT) of food grains in the current season to ensure food security in the country and fair prices of the farmers’ produces.
“The harvesting (of Boro paddy) has already begun. We’ll purchase 21 lakh MT food grains this season so that the country doesn’t experience any food crisis in future and we could continue extending food assistance to the people,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said, of the 21 lakh MT food grains, the government will buy 8 lakh MT paddy, 10 lakh MT rice, 2.20 lakh MT Atap (sunned) rice and 80,000 MT wheat.
The prime minister made the announcement while interacting with the public representatives and officials of eight districts of Dhaka and Mymensingh divisions on the present coronavirus situation in the country through a videoconference from her official Ganabhaban residence here this morning.
The districts are Manikganj, Gazipur, Tangail and Kishoreganj of Dhaka division and Jamalpur, Sherpur, Netrokona and Mymensingh of Mymensingh division.
The prime minister also said the government has taken special measures for smooth supply of the essential goods in the upcoming Ramadan.
Sheikh Hasina reiterated her call to the people to follow the health codes and instructions properly to contain the spread of COVID-19 outbreak.
“(It’s natural that) disasters will come and those will have to be faced. We’ve taken adequate preparations to prevent the deadly disease,” she said, seeking cooperation of the people to this end.
The premier said the people will have to stay alert so that the deadly virus does not spread further. “Consciousness of the people in this regard is very essential to prevent the disease,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina urged the people not to be frustrated in this situation and fight the disease with courage.
“You should face the situation bravely instead of being frustrated … this crisis will be over soon,” she said.
The premier said the Bangalee nation triumphed the victory in the Liberation War by responding to the call of Bangabandhu.
“We’re a victorious nation and we’ve to fight against the deadly disease with courage … Insha Allah we’ll be victorious in this battle too like the Liberation War,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said her government has undertaken various plans and measures to keep up the pace of the country’s economy .
“We’ve taken short, medium and long-term plans to deal with the impacts of the pandemic and keep the country’s economy dynamic in the next three years,” she said.
In this connection, the prime minister urged the people not to worry and tackle the situation with courage.
“(It’s natural that) cyclone and disasters will come. But there is nothing to worry and be frustrated. Those will have to be faced with courage from respective positions of everybody and we must have that preparation,” she said.
The prime minister said her government has announced a set of stimulus packages of Taka 95,619 crore which is 3.3 percent of total GDP to offset the economic fallout of the COVID-19.
“We’ve prepared the packages keeping the mind the people of all classes and professions including farmers, workers, potters, blacksmiths, fishermen, day-labourers, weavers and small traders,” she said.
She said the government simultaneously announced packages for small, cottage, medium and heavy industries including garments, and the affected people will get loans from this at low interest rates.
Sheikh Hasina said the government will issue 50 lakh more ration cards for the poor and distressed people to provide them with rice at Taka 10 per kilogram in this perilous moment.
“With the issuance of 50 lakh ration cards, the number of ration card holders will stand at 1 crore meaning that at least five crore people will get its benefits,” she said.
“There will be no food crisis in the country Insha Allah,” she added.
Sheikh Hasina said the government is providing various allowances to the poor and distressed people under the social safety net programmes, while the distribution of open market sale (OMS) of rice is also going on.
“But we’ve stopped distribution of extra rice which was supposed to be sold from trucks as various anomalies came to our notice in this regard,” she said.
In this connection, the premier mentioned that some people were seen to sell rice to others after buying.
“To prevent the irregularities, we’ve directed the authorities concerned to prepare a list of the genuine needy people irrespective of parties and opinions and develop their database so that the actual needy people get this rice,” she said.
The premier said she has tasked a secretary in every district to monitor the relief distribution and whether people follow the health guidelines properly.
“Simultaneously, we asked our party leaders and workers to form committees up to the ward level and help prepare a list of the genuine needy people so they get succours in this perilous time,” she added.
The prime minister said the government has declared a Tk 5000-crore incentive package for the agriculture sector to increase food production.
“The package has been prepared by comprising all sectors including agriculture, poultry, dairy and flowers,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also put emphasis on creating scopes for smooth marketing of products. “For this, we’ll have to make proper arrangements for communication so that no scarcity of any good is seen in the market,” she said.
The prime minister said she has directed the authorities concerned to set up haats and markets by maintaining adequate distance. “We’ve made these arrangements so that the life of the people doesn’t stall totally,” she said.
Pointing out that the harvesting of paddy is underway, Sheikh Hasina called upon all, including teachers, students and the people of other professions, to help the farmers in cutting paddy.
“We have allocated Taka 200 crore and are giving 50-70 percent subsidy to the peasants so that they can buy machineries for this. Following my directives, the leaders and activists of Chhatra League have already stood beside the farmers for harvesting paddy,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also pointed out that she has also instructed the party leaders and workers to reach foods to the distressed people.
Referring to the forecast of many international organizations, including the United Nations, the premier said the world may experience famine and great economic depression due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But we’ve fertile land and hard-working people and we’re also self-reliant in food. So, everybody should be engaged in producing foods whatever and wherever they can so that the country doesn’t face any crisis of food, rather we can export,” she said.
About the reopening of the garment factories, the prime minister said a decision in this regard will be taken after discussions with the factory owners.
“Many workers had to suffer extremely a few days ago as the garment owners all on a sudden announced reopening their factories, they’d to walk miles after miles to join their work and it was not a right decision (of the owners),” she said.
The prime minister said some essential factories like pharmaceutical industries will have to be reopened. “The holy month of Ramadan is ahead, so, we cannot keep closed all factories and we’ve to reopen some places,” she said.
“However, the factories will have to be run by keeping protected their workers and ensuring their housing and transportation facilities,” she said.
In this connection the prime minister said as Gazipur is COVID-19 infection-prone area, the authorities will have to think about whether it will be wise to reopen the factories there on April 24 or 25.
The prime minister spelt out her government’s steps to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“We took necessary preparations from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and opened a big control room comprising necessary health professionals to monitor the situation,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the government formed a national committee and also constituted committees at the divisional, district and upazila levels to stem the outbreak of the virus.
“We’ve made all kinds of arrangements, including preparing 507 institutions across the country for the treatment of the patients,” she said.
The premier said the entire world was stalled and its people were confined to house in the wake of the outbreak of the lethal disease.
“The world economy is now stagnant and all mosques, temples, churches and pagodas are closed …. I think the whole planet never saw such a situation that emerged due to coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
The prime minister said she warned the people much earlier that April will be a painful month for the people as the disease will spread rapidly in this month.
“If we see its trend in other countries, the disease spreads fast when it outbreaks and we saw that the outbreak has increased to some extent this April,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said thousands of people have already died in developed countries, including the USA, the UK, Italy, Spain and Germany. As many as 150 Bangladeshis died in the USA,” she said.
“We’ve been able to control the disease till today in comparison with other countries. If the people remain more careful and keep themselves protected, it’s possible for all to contain the disease and I hope they’ll do it,” she said.
Pointing out allegations of supplying sub-standard equipment to the medical professionals, the prime minister asked the authorities concerned to look into the matter whether the companies supplied the quality equipment like masks and PPE in proper way.
In this connection, she referred to the Mohanagar Hospital in Dhaka, saying that quantity equipments were not supplied there. “So, you should look into the matter,” she said.
The prime minister instructed the authorities concerned, including public representatives, to make proper arrangements for the transportation of the medical professionals including doctors and nurses alongside imparting more training to them.
Sheikh Hasina said the government cancelled all programmes of Mujib Borsho, Independence Day, Pohela Baishakh and Mujibnagar Day considering the welfare of the people.
The prime minister said the doctors, nurses, health workers, officials and employees of the administration, members of the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, BGB and all others are working round the clock risking their life to contain the disease.
Sheikh Hasina requested the Muslim devotees to offer prayers at home instead of mosque for protection of all in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.
She said the Islamic Foundation has issued guidelines in this regard. “I hope everybody will offer prayers staying home and pray to Allah so that the people of the country are saved from the coronavirus,” she said.
PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus moderated the videoconference, while Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam, PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim, PMO Secretary Tofazzal Hossain Mian and PM’s Personal Physician Prof Dr ABM Abdullah were present at Ganabhaban.
Ministers, parliament members, district administrators, deputy commissioners, police supers, civil surgeons, imams, nurses and representatives of the armed forces were connected to the videoconference from their respective districts.
Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque joined the videoconference from Gazipur, while State Minister for Information Dr Murad Hasan and AL Organizing Secretary Mirza Azam joined it from Jamalpur.