Participating in the general discussion on the supplementary budget, deputy leader of the Opposition in parliament and chairman of the Jatiya Party (JaPa) GM Quader said that the allocation being given in the health sector was being wasted. Various media outlets have exposed.

“Those who had been sued had not been seen to be punished. They are escaping trial using loopholes of the law. On the other hand, those who are bringing these to fore have been facing various problems,” he added.

GM Quader said that a journalist was harassed in various ways a few days ago.

She was strangled. A case has been filed against her. Rumours are circulating that a sedition case may be filed against her. She would face stern punishment.

"We want the rule of law," he said.

“If anyone commits a crime, let the offender be punished. But those who work in the media have some responsibilities. Journalism is the pillar of the state. Investigative journalism works to ensure accountability. It is the responsibility of the society to give such an opportunity to the journalists there,” Jatiya Party chairman added.

GM Quader said, "Just as it is unusual to spend less than the allocation, it is also unusual to spend more. These abnormalities need to be addressed by analysing and identifying the causes.”

The health ministry needs reforms

BNP MP Harunur Rashid said he was tired of talking about the health sector.

He suggested that the health sector needs to be brought under reforms. A committee has to be formed to protect it. The health ministry is the depot of corruption in procurement. The health minister should be clearly informed about how this ministry will be reformed.

Jatiya Party reserved seat MP Rowshan Ara Mannan said, "Employees like Abjal of the health ministry have been committing irregularities like in fairy tale. It has now come down a bit after the intervention of the prime minister. But they could not be stopped. There are more Malek and Abjal in the ministry. An official in the ministry has houses in three countries, including Canada.”

Notably, the sacked accountant of the medical education wing of the Directorate General of Health Services, Abjal Hossain, used to ride a Harrier car. His wife Rubina Khanam was a former stenographer in the education and health manpower development of DGHS. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has filed a case against the couple on charges of laundering Tk 2.63 billion (263 crore 8 lac 61 thousand 175 taka) abroad. Abjal is now in jail. His wife is a fugitive.

On the other hand, the ACC has filed a case against Abdul Malek, a class three employee of DGHS, and his wife Nargis Begum for illegally amassing assets worth Tk 26 million. The ACC has found seven plots and a dairy farm of the couple in Dhaka. There are also multi-storey buildings in two plots.

The health minister has no authority

Addressing the health minister, senior Jatiya Party MP Kazi Firoz Rashid said, "You are a gentleman. Your father was a minister, we worked together. I know you. You came from a very rich family. But you don't have the authority, that's what's happening in the health ministry.”

Kazi Firoz said there was no oxygen in the hospital.

“Now we need oxygen now. MRI, CT scan machine is being procured instead. These are being sent to the upazilas. They kept the equipment aside as they do not know how to use those machines. Millions are being wasted but people are not receiving the services.”

Feroz Rashid said, “What is the use of talking? Who cares?”

Why 75 per cent of ADP remains unused

Rumin Farhana, an MP from the BNP's reserved women's seat, said India had allocated 136 per cent more to the health sector during the coronavirus period than the last year.

“In Bangladesh it has increased by only 12 per cent. Again, what was allocated was not used. In 10 months, only 25 per cent of the ADP (Annual Development Programme) has been implemented in the health sector. Now again they are seeking new allocations. The health minister will have to give an answer as to why 75 per cent of the allocation remained unused,” she added.

Questions about vaccination

Opposition deputy leader GM Quader said it was not yet clear when or from which country the vaccine would be available.

“The ministry did not keep any alternative source for vaccines. So when the one company the ministry made agreement with failed to supply the vaccines, the ministry had no other alternative source to collect vaccines. Now there is a lot of uncertainty about vaccination.”

Statement of the health minister

In response to the MPs' criticism, health minister Zahid Maleque highlighted the government's various initiatives to tackle Covid-19. He said there was no shortage of medicines. There has never been a lack of oxygen.

He said, “Bangladeshis enjoyed the same treatment as in America. Inoculation programmes are going on. The death rate due to these reasons is one and a half per cent.”

The health minister said the Serum Institute was unable to provide vaccines due to the increase in infections in India. The ministry has been arranging jabs from China, Russia and America.

“An agreement has already been reached,” he said.

Zahid Maleque added that more vaccines would have to be purchased. Around Tk 3,000 would be required per capita for the vaccine.

“Even during the coronavirus, Tk 15,000 has been spent for treatment in a normal bed for each person. It is provided by the government. The government has spent Tk 50,000 for those who were in ICU” he said further.

Criticism of journalist torture

Opposition members reacted sharply to the torture of Rozina Islam, a senior reporter at Prothom Alo in the health ministry, who was confined for about six hours. Jatiya Party's Kazi Firoz Rashid said, "If a journalist commits any crime, he or she will have to be handed over to the police. This is the rule."

Asking why the law was taken into hands, he said, "She was confined for six hours. She was not even allowed to go to the toilet. Can a sick woman be harassed in this way? The United Nations, the whole world talked about it. This is shame for us. We have to cover our own weaknesses.”

Jatiya Party's Rowshan Ara Mannan asked why a woman journalist was not immediately handed over to the police if she did anything wrong.

“Why was she confined and tortured for six hours? Why was the law taken into their own hands? Why did they torture her? The whole country condemned the incident,” she said further.

BNP MP Mosharraf Hossain said, “An official of the ministry tried to strangle journalist Rozina Islam and harassed her. Rozina did nothing wrong.”

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