OMS subsidy rises by Tk 800cr amid Covid surge29 January 2022
Business Desk :
The government has expanded its subsidy basket for Open Market Sales (OMS) programme, a public intervention into the essential market to keep some grocery products' prices low and make them available to the low income people.
The government raises its OMS subsidy to Tk 800 crore, or 19 percent increase as a social protection measure for the marginal people in Upazilla level.
Such intervention, say experts, is crucial to protect marginal people against inflation amid rising Covid-19 cases when more and more people are affected and therefore need a break from earning livelihood, a food ministry official said.
Besides, the food ministry officials have been making surprise visits to different dealers across the country to stop pilferage of the OMS, if any.
The finance ministry on January 18 approved an additional three lakh tonnes of rice and one lakh tonnes of wheat in that regard beyond the regular budgetary allocation.
The food department will sell the commodities among the poor people until June.
Food Secretary Dr Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum sent a letter to the senior Finance Secretary Abdur Rouf Talukder two weeks ago seeking this additional food allocation for the low income people.
According to the food ministry, the total subsidy for OMS' essentials products is now Tk 4,760 crore, up by 19 per cent from the budget allocation of Tk 4,000 crore for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Last year during the severe spread of Coronavirus (January-April), the finance ministry approved an additional allocation of 20,000 tonnes of rice and 14,000 tonnes of wheat for the distribution among the urban poor.
The official of the food ministry said there is no sign of easing prices of the essentials, especially rice which is selling at Tk 55 to 60 per kg.
"That is why we need to revamp our surveillance for if there is any pilferage," she said.
She further said: "We want to make sure that the indigent, who are queuing for our rice and wheat at low prices, keep getting it during the pandemic."
On Wednesday, the food directorate suspended the eight dealers and handed over show-cause notices to four officials.
Apart from supporting poor people, the OMS programme helps keep the market stable, she explained.
"We have asked the supervisory authorities to be extremely vigilant to stop any irregularities and corruption in OMS operations," Abdullah Al Mamun, Additional Director General in-charge of DG of the Food Directorate, said.
He said some five teams comprising officers have already been formed.
"We will announce when and where the teams will visit at 9 am on the same day so that the respective dealers do not get time to manipulate their activities."
Mamun claimed that they are reaping benefits.
He said, "Various types of irregularities and corruption are being unraveled by them in the inspection."
Those who are found to have committed irregularities, mismanagement and corruption will be fined and may even be subjected to cancellation of their dealerships, he warned. "If necessary, a criminal case will be filed. No one will be spared," he added. The food ministry has sold 18,363 tonnes of rice and wheat across the country under OMS programme in a week during January 14 to January 20, respectively. On January 26, the government food reserve (rice and wheat) stood at 20.70 lakh tonnes.