Public money spent on dev propaganda ahead of polls

Jahangir Shah . Dhaka | Update:

With the elections around the bend, the government will be apprising the people of the rural areas about its achievements in the development sector over the past several years. And, as usual, public money will be used for the purpose.

As part of this campaign, the directorate of mass communication, under the information ministry, has taken up a project for strengthening publicity for the development of rural communities, at a cost of around Tk 600 million. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the project on 3 April.

This project includes campaigning on the development achievements of the government over the last few years, aimed at giving the ruling party an upper hand in the election race. 

Under the project videos on development will be projected in every union. This will be accompanied by concerts, women’s meetings and free meals.

Director of the mass communication directorate Jasim Uddin has said the project will be implemented fully from July.

The main programme is entitled ‘Egiye Jachhe Bangladesh’ (Bangladesh is advancing).

The 10 initiatives of the prime minister being highlighted under the project are 'Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar' (one farm for every household), Asrayan, Digital Bangladesh, education assistance programme, electricity for all, community clinics and child development, social security and more.

Achievements of the government at home and abroad over the last eight years will also be highlighted in the campaign through film shows, folksong sessions, women gatherings, Facebook posts, YouTube, as well as radio and TV broadcasts.

The project is of three years, spanning from November 2017 to November 2020. According to the project documents, Tk 535 million or 90 per cent of the total budget will be spent between 2 and 19 of June.

Commenting on the relevance of the project, former advisor of the caretaker government AB Mirza Azizul Islam said there is no justified basis for such projects. No development is achieved through such projects. He added, such projects are taken up with the election in mind, to win votes from the people.

Taking up projects before the polls is nothing new.

In the current fiscal, three projects have been passed for constructing schools, colleges, mosques and temples, according to the demand of the concerned MPs. 

Three more such projects are in the pipeline, awaiting allocations for constructing madrasas, public toilets and market places in other relevant constituencies.

The MPs of these constituencies had been allocated Tk 30 million to 50 million for road construction in their areas over the last eight years. The development campaign project is the latest inclusion.

Films on the development of every union will be presented. A thousand leaflets on development will be distributed and over four and a half million leaflets will be printed at a cost of Tk 100 million.

Jasim Uddin went on to say, before the commencement of the project, appointments will be made, premises will be rented and other preparations will be completed.

LED screens will be set up on pickup trucks in each of the 4,554 unions to screen the films.

A school compound from each union will be selected for the film shows. And 20 teams will be employed to screen the films across the country. Every day at least one show will be held, at least 20 shows in each district per month.

In all, 21,360 shows will be screened. Five films costing Tk 100,000 each will be produced. Two-thirds of the total budget, that is Tk 380 million, has been allocated for this purpose.

Local popular folk music like bhawaiya, gombhira, jari-sari will also be performed.

A total of 9,792 events will be held across the country. The events will cost Tk 20 million. Each of the folk singer will be paid Tk 700 per programme, bringing the total cost to Tk 30 million for this segment.

A woman gathering will be held at each upazila. Budget for the banner, stage decoration, participators is Tk 15,000.

And those watching the development campaign films will be treated to good food, with Tk 20 million allocated for their treat.

AB Mirza Azizul Islam said, people can see development for themselves if it takes place. It doesn't require further campaigning. Moreover, there is the TV and the radio for broadcasting development. Local leaders involved with the ruling party will benefit from this project, he observed.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.

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