A commendable act | Daily News

A commendable act

A proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to provide 10 kilos of rice per month to two million low income families including Samurdhi beneficiaries for a two month period deserves the highest praise at a time the poor are at their wits end not knowing when their next meal is going to come for them. Although the Government has provided additional funds for this group until April 2023, the need has arisen to care for these low income families. The paddy harvest this year is also expected to be higher than the previous Maha Season facilitating the programme. The President's proposal received Cabinet endorsement at Monday's Cabinet meeting. The decision is also an indication that the President has acknowledged the hardships being endured by the poor and is out to provide whatever relief to alleviate their condition. The Government will purchase 61,000 Metric Tons to meet the full requirement of 40,000 Metric Tons required for the implementation of the programme. The programme will be implemented by the District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries with the assistance of small and medium scale paddy mills, according to our main story yesterday.

It is hoped that no family among the needy will be left out of the scheme and that the selection process too will have to be done carefully lest there are allegations the more deserving was left out as do often happens when such programmes are implemented. More so because it is reported that 40 percent among the Samurdhi recipients are no longer qualified to enjoy the benefit but continue to remain in the scheme as a result of political influence. If so, this will negate the President's effort, with the deserving left high and dry. Therefore, the officials responsible for identifying the eligible should go about their task with care and diligence. Why only target two million, one may ask when international bodies such as the World Food Programme have identified 6.3 million among the population as being threatened by malnutrition. Perhaps, after the first two million had received their full quota the next stage will see the others included.

Well, at least a start has been made and it is hoped that before long all those who are in need would be included in the programme. Measures should also be taken to make it convenient for all those eligible to receive this provision free of hassle. This is because, particularly in the villages, the poor have no means of spending for long distance travel to collect the rice provision and even if they do, it will not be worth the while, given the cost of travel. The officials should also ensure that the rice is of good quality because there are political parties eagerly waiting to cash in a situation where the rice is of an inferior quality and unfit for consumption, particularly during this election period. Of course, there is bound to be accusations that the Government is targeting the Local Government Elections by giving freebies to the poor. However, an election should by no means stand in the way of feeding the hungry and the desperate given the current situation the country is in. Are Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and the Rathu Sahodarayas who are weeping buckets for the poor and never fail to attack the Government accusing it of plunging the people into poverty, against the granting of this relief to the poor which will be a God sent to them? This move to feed the hungry in whatever way possible would certainly be far more welcome to the poor than providing school buses to children and far more appreciated. The programme which will entail purchase of paddy in such large quantities will also stand to benefit the farmer in a big way. The total estimated purchase cost of paddy is Rs.8,040 million, according to our report.

Not just rice, the poor and the hungry are in need of other means of assistance as well in order to emerge from their plight. Today there is an acute shortage of certain basic essentials vital for survival. Medicines which even if available are out of reach for most, including the middle class. Measures are therefore called for urgently easing the hardships of the ordinary people as far as possible. On the positive side though, there are promising signs to indicate a turnaround in the economy. India and China have all but agreed to restructure our debts. President Wickremesinghe has already declared that the IMF had given the green light for releasing the promised 2.9 billion dollar assistance to the country. Hopefully, all this will provide the necessary fillip to the economy which in turn will improve things on the ground for the people to breathe a little easier.

Of course, the Local Government Election is going to pose a big distraction in the Government's efforts to concentrate on rebuilding the economy. A lot of funds that the country can ill-afford are going to be swallowed up in this exercise. This, apart from other diversions. The Commissioner General of Examinations H.J.M.C. Amith Jayasundara has called for candidates of all political parties not to campaign in a manner that would disrupt the upcoming GCE Advanced Level Examinations. It is time for all sides to act with more responsibility by giving priority to efforts to take the country out of its present dire situation. There has to be a country left for whoever is aspiring to rule in the future.


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