Livestock plays a vital role in ensuring food security, balanced nutrition, addressing unemployment issues, and creating self-employment opportunities in Bangladesh.
However, questions have arisen regarding the effectiveness of the programmes and projects implemented by the Department of Livestock Services to assist farmers.
According to a report by Prothom Alo, the Livestock department procured 360 vehicles at a cost of Tk 1.85 billion early last year to provide emergency treatment to sick cows and goats. Unfortunately, these vehicles are being used for personal purposes by officials instead of fulfilling their intended role of treating sick animals.
Some officials from the livestock department use these vehicles to attend ministerial events, for their daily commutes between home and the office, and for personal travel.
Officials in animal husbandry have raised objections about providing large trucks for treating sick animals, as they are impractical for transporting livestock in remote areas. Farmers have also said that they were not aware of the availability of animal treatment services through home visits using cars.
In addition to this, under the LDDP project, ultrasound machines (used for cow pregnancy tests) and cream separators (machines for separating cream from milk) have been supplied to each upazila livestock office.
However, no training has been provided on how to operate these devices, resulting in them remaining unused. Furthermore, most of the equipment supplied in each upazila under the project, including freezers and refrigerators, has also gone unused.
A Prothom Alo correspondent visited the Keraniganj upazila livestock office in Dhaka on 27 July and observed that the refrigerator remained unopened, and the freezer was empty. The ultrasound machine also sat unused, as did the cream separator machine. Some of these machines had arrived in the upazila a month ago, while others had been there for two months.
Jannatun Nahar, a livestock extension officer in the same upazila, informed Prothom Alo that no training had been provided on how to use the ultrasound machine. On 20 July, a Prothom Alo correspondent visited the Livestock Office in Tongibari Upazila in Munshiganj and found that various devices provided under the project were still packed in boxes in a room.
The Planning Commission's Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) has also raised objections about the Tk 7.52 billion expenditure reported by the Department of Livestock Services for cash assistance to farmers during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, cash assistance ranging from Tk 12,000 to Tk 22,000 was allocated to approximately 600,000 affected farmers nationwide through this programme.
The selection of affected farmers was carried out by a committee led by the Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO). However, there are allegations that many eligible farmers did not receive the cash assistance despite being on the list. PEC conducted interviews with 1,200 farmers, revealing that only 30 per cent had received the cash assistance, while the majority had not.
From these findings, it can be inferred that nearly every project undertaken by the livestock department suffers from substantial irregularities and wastage. This is due to the arbitrary and inefficient management of those entrusted with the responsibility of implementing these projects. Allegations of irregularities and embezzlement within the organisation's projects warrant thorough investigation, and those found responsible should be held accountable.