Page 1

Assignment On Monga

INTRODUCTION May be our eyes and minds have become so habituated with the everyday news and stories, which we find in newspaper or television screen that we hardly recognize the issue. Yes, this is about ‘Monga’, a near-famine situation. During the Bangla month of “Kartik” i.e. mid October to mid November, marginal and landless farmers face an economic crisis. This crisis stems from lack of nonagricultural incline season. This yearly incident is called “Monga”, a near famine situation that results in severe food crisis for the people of the northern part of Bangladesh. Millions of women, children and men face agonizing poverty. Some of them die, some commit suicide. ‘Kochu’, ‘Ghechu’ ‘Kainjal’ (water based plants and leaves) and other inedible items become the only means to survive for those who would dare fight until the end. Epidemics break out. Robbery, theft, trafficking, sex trade, blackmailing and other incidences of violence further endanger their life.

However, to our disappointment, we find that although the crisis has become a regular incident hitting the same people in the same area, there have not been any significant initiatives taken to prevent monga by the government, political parties or NGOs. Rather, they have been subjected to severe criticisms for the indifference and laziness in taking relief operations or long-term measures to the effected areas. Sad but true, rather than considering it as an emergency or rights- faced issue, the government initiatives represent some ambiguity to decide whether “monga” falls within the category

of natural disaster, for each the collection of Tk. 75 crore to fight the challenges of natural disasters has been left unutilized. (Source: state, the monthly magazine of New Age, December, 2005)

I think, now “Monga” is not a regional problem, it becomes a national problem. Because the people of our country pass their day, without food and for this we are unable to make our country more developed. It is a fundamental right to every citizen to be free from hunger, poverty & starvation. But in our country many people pass their days and nights without having any food. I think the problem of “Monga” is a great barrier for the development of our country. And I choose this topic because I realize the importance of this problem. My home district is Rangpur and I see this problem very closely from the early of my childhood. I feel an urge from the core of my heart to do something for the people of my region. And when I feel then I decide to choose the topic “Monga” for my assignment. REVIEW THE LITERATURE: “Monga” is a known feature to all. The meaning of monga is ‘scarcity’ “shortage”, “indigence”. “Monga” is a very known word for the people of northern part of Bangladesh. Under monga condition food insecurity prevails, not necessarily due to shortfall of production, rather due to problems of effective distribution as well as lack of employment of the agriculture labourers. According to Centre for Policy Dialogue, “Monga is a local term used to indicate acute deprivation caused due to the erosion of purchasing power from lack of gainful employment opportunities.” (CPD).

In a workshop at Dalia heading “Shop Politics on Monga, high time to fight it,” Abdul Majid, Chief Scientific Officer of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) in Rangpur region presented a key note paper at the workshop. He said, during Bangla months of Aswin & Kartik (mid September to mid November) people of eight districts of Rangpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh and Nilphamari face acute hardship due to unemployment. They are only 10 percent of the countries population living in 11 percent area.

The causes are: 1.

Poor economic condition


Repeated floods


River erosion


Absence of food grains surplus at family level.


Increase in the number of landless people


Unskilled labor


Lack of employment in non-agriculture sectors excluding agriculture.

Speaking as chief guest, State Minister for Agriculture Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said “we must create alternative employment opportunities, alongside developing and diversifying agriculture in the monga effected areas. “He said the government wants to promote agro-based small and medium industries in the region but investors are not coming forth. They think that investment in this region would not be profitable. (Stop politics on Monga, High time to fight it, Daily Star, 17 th April, 2005.) Bangladesh Economics Association prepared a paper for xv Bennial Conference and in this paper they said that in the northern district the labor supply is higher than in comparison with other districts. And here the labor cost is too small. Due to lack of industry, industrial mobility is too less. (Jarip- 2003, Bangladesh Economics Association).

The wages of “monga” effected areas are too small. Now we see this discrimination in the following table: Year

June’97 June’98 June’99


(TK) Wages




Average wages Rangpur








& Growth



Rangpur Region

51.50 57.00 60.00

region -15 -16 -14

36.00 41.00 46.00

5 -3

Bangladesh (per day) 79 80 83

June 2000 June 2001 June 2002 June 2003

64.00 66.00 69.00 76.00

45.00 46.00 46.00 53.00

-19 -20 -23 -23

-1 +1 0 7

88 90 100 107

Source: B.B.S. Year book of Agricultural statistics. 99-2000, Monthly Statistical Bulletin, 2004. A survey is held by RDRS and in this survey they find out some causes of monga1.

Lack of work in non-agricultural sector


Low amount of labour cost/wages/low wages


Landless farmer


Lack of crop diversification


Excessive production of “Tamak�


Lack of cash money


Lack of loan facilities


Above all excessive farmers than need/demand.

The growth of agricultural labour (Zila wise) Name Rangpur Lalmonirhat Nilphamari Gaibandha Kurigram Total Source: Census

83-84 2000-2001 Growth Average 136360 194648 58288 42.74% 58744 80855 22111 37.64% 87870 126650 33780 44.13% 139420 193970 54550 39.15% 107355 160798 53443 49.78% 568529 756921 188392 42.68% of Agriculture Zila Series Nilphamari- 2003 and statistical pocket book of

Bangladesh- 2001.

MORE DREADFUL MONGA THIS YEAR This years monga was more acute than those in the post. It did not remain limited in greater Rangpur only, but spread across Faridpur, Gopalgonj and Jamalpur district and affected at least 30-40 Lac people. At least 44 people died due to diarrhoea and hunger, (Daily Star, December 31, 2005) Incessant heavy rainfall and flood further deteriorated the situation claiming more lives that suffered from hunger. Forced to eat unhealthy food, people are frequently becoming affected with diarrhoea at

least 10000 people were affected in Rangpur district along of which at least 30 died (Sangbad, 23, October 2005). Suicide in order to escape starvation has become a normal incident. To survive, poor people are forced to sell their necessaries. WHY MONGA IS A REGULAR INCIDENT 1 Flood 2 River erosion 3 Excessive rainfall 4 Discriminatory distribution of land is more evident in this area than any other parts of the country. Around 65% of the people in this area are landless. 5 Widespread corruption in distributing food relief and VGF cards. 6 Lack of sources of industries – based employment 7 Very little micro-credit programs taken by the NGOs due too low return rates for poverty in that area. An estimate of BRAC showed that almost 32% of the people in those areas are ‘ultra poor’ who do not have the capacity to return the furrowed money, let alone the interests of micro-credit. (What are the ways to remove Monga? Prothom Alo round table discussion, 11 December, 2005) Even if the relief workers were carried out without any irregularities, the allotted amount would simply be too small to sustain a family that has one card only. For lack of recognition by the government, the funds that are allocated for poverty alleviation or disaster management can not be utilized at the time of crisis.

Anu Muhammad, Professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University commented that the monga in northern Bangladesh is an illustration of sustainable poverty. Government poverty alleviation programs do not reach the northern region where monga hits tens of millions of people each year. Moreover, for the lack of capacity of the people to return their borrowed amount, microcredit programs are not popular here. As a result, for survival, people are forced to go to local ‘Mahajan’ or money-lenders who usually charge 200-300% in interest. Men are forced to cheaply sell their labour during the odd season. As a result, they are more steadfastly entrapped in the vicious cycle. Unlike other areas, the distribution of land is too much discriminatory in this area making at

least 65% people landless. Thus, there is a need for reforms and long-term plan to prevent monga. (Daily Sangbad, October 30, 2005) For lesser attention and care women and children become the first victims of diseases and deprivations. To, survive many of them are forced info begging, sex trade or other hazardous works. Since the area is close to the borders, it becomes easier for traffickers to tempt young women or children to cross the border. These trafficked girls and children engaged in various inhuman work like sex trade. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Inadequate food and care endanger both the life of mother and child. A malnourished mother cannot produce enough milk to feed her baby. Some recent discussions have revealed that there could be an indirect link between recent upsurge of Islamic militancy in the country and ongoing poor social security in the North, as the perpetrators grabbed are mostly from the northern districts. Deprivation, hunger, lack of support have so prompted their anger that they are easily being misled by false religious dictations. (An article, prepared by Dip Mamun, Freelance writer) METHODOLOGY: The data for this study have been collected from both Primary and Secondary sources. For Primary sources in depth information was collected through a number of case studies. Monga affected, villageSaodagar Para of Tista, Union- Gogunda under Lalmonirhat district were selected as primary sources. Newspaper, media coverage on monga. Victims, Government & non-government research reports and articles were the basis of secondary source of information.

SCOPE AND LIMITATION: A micro survey, such as the present one, has its limitation, because one can rarely extrapolate results from the sample to the national or even regional population. In terms of case study, it focuses on few units. Some time limited in their representativeness. They don’t allow valid generalization and particularly vulnerable to subjective bias.

Below are some case studies, which are presented in order to depict some of the harsh realities of the socio-cultural and economic impact monga. CASE STUDY: 1

Asiya is one of those people in saudgarpara who spend their day starving. Asiya is married (30 years). She has a son and two daughters. Her husband has a shabby tea-stall beside the street which is made of bamboo. With her husbands earning, Asiya’s family runs. Her husband’s daily income is 35 to 40 taka; 50 at most, but not more than that. They do not have any assets, not even a domestic animal which might have provided them with an extra earning. Due to her fate Asiya could just educate her daughter until the sixth standard and moreover she was found to get her daughter married. At least, they got free of the expense of one member. Poverty is their companion for 12 long months. When her husbands earning is insufficient, she needs to work as a maid servant. In return, she gets half a kilo of rice, vegetables or potatoes. If they can somehow manage food once, in a day, it becomes difficult for them to manage it for the second time. Their poverty goes even worse during the month of Ashin and Kartik. Then they have to relay on “Kochu” “Ghechu” “Chatu” “Chaler Khud” etc. Most they do not have the money to buy materials for preparing tea. During flood, their condition becomes more vulnerable. During that time, they have nothing to do other spending days on the bed. Neither Asiya nor her husband has no educational qualification. Moreover, they do not know any technical works. So, during scarcities, they do not have any job, even they want one. Last year, during the flood, Asiya took loan from the BRAC. Now she is repaying the loan at installment, Which is Tk. 25 per week. They are now awful and painful conditions. For the salvations against the winter they have nothing but a quilt and turned sweater for the younger son. Always, they are suffering from fever, diahorrea,

they have to pay for the medicine, and so. Due to lack of money, most of the time they cannot have proper treatment. Moreover, due to the present high price of rice and pulse the condition has turned worse than the worst. For one year, they ate, small fish first for 4 to 5 day and when estimating the last day they had meat, Asiya goes in a position for shedding tears. Asiyas family could not have any government and non-government aid during last years severe monga. They are completely unaware of the government pioneered scheme such as VGD, VGF, village rationing card etc. They are even deprived of KABITA (Kajer binimoye taka) that is money for work and KABIKHA (Kajer binimoye Khaddo) that is food for work programs. CASE STUDY 2

For providing his children with a few food twice a day. Mohrob Islam has to keep busy day and night. He has two cute daughters, the elder one is now at class 3 at the BRAC school. so he is saved from the educational expenses; and the younger one has not started school yet. For a living Mohrob Islam ploughs others land and as asset. he has a house only. He does not have much educational qualification but he can sign his name. His daily income is 50 to 60 taka with which he has to sort of struggle to run his family. There is no source of extra income. He possesses a cow that should be his last option but he worries that he might have to give away that during scarcity. During Ashin and Kartik he becomes completely jobless as no wok is available on lands. Also during floods he has to pass days without any work. In such poor conditions he passes his days at that time that, while describing those contemporary periods he just broke into tears. During scarcity, if , he can manage food for once, he has to pass rest of the day with empty stomach. Kochu, Gechu, Panta Vaat are the

stuffs in his menu. So not having any option during that time he has to sell paddy (Auysh and amon) at a very low price, which at normal times is Tk. 400 to 450 per Mon to the Mahajan and head of the village. Most of the times Mohrob's wife is ill and so during scarcity he has to work at others' house as there is no work in lands; but nowadays his physical conditions is also not so well. In a month. may be they may not have meat for a single day. Mohrob never had any loan from BRAC or from any NGOs. Badly stricken by poverty he has to go house-to-house or the well offs to help. Nearly every year they have to face "Monga" And his children suffer from diahorrea and dysentery frequently. Last year during the flood the bamboo of his house was ruined but he could not get any help from anybody. He is also deprived of facilities like VGD, VGF, KABITA, KABIKHA, etc. CASE STUDY: 3

Begum’s family includes her husbands and three daughters. Husband sells tea and biscuits and she works as a maid at other’s house. Neither of them has any educational background. They have “Char Satak” of land and at that very spot, their house was built, with bamboo and tin. Her husband earns about Tk. 30/35 daily and at this rate, nearly most of the time a year, scarcity is always with them “They face monga whole year. During that time Kochu, Kolmi Shakh, Ghechu etc. are their food menu. They can not have fish or meat, not even for a single day in a month. May be they get to eat those once or twice a year. Begum is a member of BRAC. At the past time she loaned TK. 3000 from there and TK. 4000 next year. But repaying those was really tough and troublesome for them. However, they repay the loan in return by heart and soul labour. She knows the work of sewing, still it can not bring solvency. Most of the money that they get for work at the shop goes away in repaying the loan. Even they do not have a bit money for even treatment. Last year during the extreme “Monga” they did not receive any government or non-government aid and moreover they are completely ignorant about schemes like VGF, VGD card. They have long prayed for the fact that government would help them with cash money. However, this is for beyond implementation. CASE STUDY-4

Kochimon is the agonizing reality of early marriage. Being at a very young age, Kochimon is now the mother of a son and daughter. Her husband is a rickshaw-puller at the village market, with a daily income of TK. 25/30, which is not sufficient for a few foods, even twice a day. During flood the house was badly ruined and they had to rebuilt that house by landing money from the people of the locality. Their house is on railways land and sometimes for this season, the staff of railways destroys their house. And so they have to re-construct the house, again by landing, As a matter of fact, landing has become a daily procedure for them and as they cannot repay the money, Kochimon always have to consume the hostile and insult from their neighborhood. “Poverty� this simple dictionary word has become agonizing attached with her, which she started her life and may be has to end it. After a day of long and laborer work at others house, she may be sympathized with vegetables, Potato or Rice and with this they have to manage their hunger. She did not take any loan from BRAC and neither they any sort of aid from government or non-government NGO and as most of the unprivileged, deprived they does not know any single staff about VGD and VGF card and KABIKHA or KABITA projects.


Muhammad Islam is one of those people at Tista who are currently at an awfully battered and distorted condition and whose distressful sufferings hardly leave anyone without tears. Md. Islam is suffering from albinism and at the same time he is a cripple; so he cannot work. His wife left him and now his family consists of his only daughter and his old mother who happens to be beside him in these hideous conditions. For this unfortunate cripple, food is only available when his mother rings some by begging. His mother, who is also a cripple goes house to beg. May be she is pitied by Panta Vaat and vegetable and with wretched item and then the manage their hunger. His daughter is getting free education from the BRAC School. He lives on the railways land. Nearly all the times they have to be contents without any food at least once a day. During then they have to fell asleep due to the agony of hunger and waking up they have to think " What shall we eat?"; and this is how in this halfperished condition these three lives is crawling. Last year during the Kurbani Eid his mother brought some beef by begging and they ate that joyous satisfaction. Except Eid no one gives beef and obviously they cannot afford to buy meat for themselves. For winter they have nothing more than a blanket and with the few thrashed clothing they have, they use those against monstrous cold. They do not know anything about VGF, VGD card. Moreover during the "monga" they receive no aid from any government or non-government schemes. Whether dead or alive nobody does not even pay the slightest attention. " As long as we are alive poverty will plague us and when we are dead it is all over" - in such inhuman\painful condition are Islam and his family living. FINDINGS The ministry of food, relief and disaster management created a fund of TK. 500 crore in order to find a permanent solution to monga. The fund was supposed to be used in allocating “Khas land�

among the landless and for providing financial support for self employment generation. Under this initiative, Tk. 20 crore has been spend upto data (Prothom Alo, 26 October, 2005) Government also undertook vulnerable group feeding (VGF), test relief, money for work programme, selling of rice at lower price (OMS), and stipends for girls. However despite those good initiatives, the situation at one stages had become so uncontrollable due to improper distribution, corruption and nepotism. Besides, the initiatives taken were of title use to most of the people affected, as most of them did not get VGF, VGD and village rationing cards. SOLVING THE CRISIS Monga must be recognized as a national issue. As long the government denies its existence, we cannot expect it to come up with specific programmes to mitigate the crisis. Those involved in governments policy-making need to realize that emergency relief is more essential. •

Initiatives should be taken to develop non farm employment during the agriculture lean season- as short term and long term measures along with plant and policies to encourage the private to invest and setup industrial units in the areas concerned.


Government needs to take initiatives to spread micro-credit programs along with capacity building of the poor to return the loan money. National and local NGOs should be encouraged to join the process keeping in mind that the center of their attention should be development, not profit making.


Alternatives farming in the affected areas can be an effective deterrent to fight monga. Excessive dependence on rice cultivation should be reduced; banana, Potato, Bhutta and other vegetables that grow better during the lean season should be promoted. Animal rearing, livestock and poultry also are effective means to reduce poverty. Besides, if these items can be brought to Dhaka at a reduced cost, it can benefit both the growers and consumers. For that, the rate of Jamuna Bridge toll should be reduced. Farmers say it will lessen the cost of the products up to 2/3 taka per kilo.

There is an urgent need to increase the number of VGD and VGF cards and test relief program, KABITA (money for work), Rural maintenance program (RMP) and KABIKHA (Food for work) etc. as well as measures to distribute those properly among the poor and vulnerable groups. Many argue that there is enough storage of food in the country, but the main problem is to make them available to the people who really need it.

For long term solution to the problem, there should be a plan to build up small and large-scale industries in the North. Industries of longer scales can provide employment for greater number of people. Government should support the private sector to invest in such programs.

Well planned programs to develop the capacity of women in weaving, stitching or handicrafts can bring in good results. There is huge demand for silk at both national and international level, which can be produced in this region in plenty.

CONCLUSION Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen has rightly pointed out that a famine is not caused by shortage of food but because of the fact that people do not have the capacity to buy food. True this is, as the government has repeatedly kept assuring of adequate storage of food, but in newspaper we find quite the opposite. The real problem lies in the improper distribution of foods and lack of capacity of the people to purchase. Corruption, nepotism, lack of co-ordination, tenacity of the government policies and officials, negative attitude towards the media, political revelries are the main reasons that aggravated the situation. Starvation deaths and ongoing malnutrition as reported from the ‘monga’ affected areas of the country appear to be the consequence of bad governance resulting from acts of omission and commission on the part of public servants and also decisions for release and disbursement of existing funds and relief for the purpose of addressing the “Monga” situation. The recent thrust of monga has given us an opportunity to analyze the situation and identify the causes of it, which might help take precautionary steps to prevent this from happening next year. We are now frequently having meetings, round tables, debates that might teach us some lessons not to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Therefore, its time to rectify our past mistake and take steps to get ourselves rid of this national shame- Monga.


DËie‡½i g½v t GKwU MÖvg, Rwic- 2003, evsjv‡`k A_©bxwZ wk¶K mwgwZ|

DËiv‡j g½v t KviY I KiYxq, GKwU msKwjZ Rwic cÖwZ‡e`b, Avi.wW.Avi.Gm, evsjv‡`k|

Survey on food security and hunger in Bangladesh, June 2004, Bread for the world and RDRS Bangladesh.

Monga in the northern districts of Bangladesh, October to November 2003, Mr. Shahjahan Miah, CPD.

Statistical Pocket Book Bangladesh 2001, Bangladesh Bureau of statistics.

B. B. S- Census of agriculture 1996. Zila Series, Nilphamari, April 2003.

B. B.S- Monthly statistical bulletin, January 2004.

District Gazetteer- Rangpur 1977.

Islam Muinul- Poverty creation or poverty reduction under PRSP: A case for reviewing and retting the role of the state of Bangladesh, presented at a National Seminar, November 2005, 2002 organized by BEA.

Mia M.S Alam- Poverty alleviation in Bangladesh, An exploration, BUP- 1993.

CPD- The State of Bangladesh Economy, The Daily Star 12, January 2004.

Slate, the monthly magazine of New Age, December 2005.

Daily Star, Dhaka, December 31, 2005.

Sangbad, Dhaka, October 23, 2005.

What are the ways to remove Monga? Prothom Alo Round Tables discussion, December 11, 2005.

Daily Sangbad, October 30, 2005.

Prothom Alo, October 26, 2005.

Sangbad, October 26, 2005.

Daily Star, April 17, 2005.

Daily Star, January 12, 2004.

Ittefaq, July 02, 2005.

Daily Janakantha, July 28, 2003.

An article, prepared by- Dip Mamun, Freelance Writer.

Profile for Md Papon

Assignment on monga  

May be our eyes and minds have become so habituated with the everyday news and stories, which we find in newspaper or television screen that...

Assignment on monga  

May be our eyes and minds have become so habituated with the everyday news and stories, which we find in newspaper or television screen that...

Profile for md.papon

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded