Over 8.0 million marginalised people of the country, most of whom are invisible in government statistics, are caught in poverty trap due to exclusion and marginalisation, according to a study.
While presenting the study paper at a national workshop in Dhaka on Monday, economist Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman said the poverty trap is affecting the achievement of poverty reduction target.
He said Bangladesh progressed a lot in the last 45 years when the poverty rate came down to 21 per cent from around 70 per cent.
"But still many people, especially the marginalised, are living in poverty trap. Only building infrastructures and distribution of VGF (vulnerable group feeding) cards cannot take them out of the trap," he added.
Dr Zillur, also the Executive Chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), said a 'reliable' national database on the marginalised people is necessary to know their community-specific requirements and undertake programmes for their fulfilment.
PPRC, Society for Environment and Human Development (SHED), Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB), and Gram Bikash Kendra organised the workshop titled 'Leaving No One Behind: Exclusion and Marginalisation Challenges in Bangladesh'.
Dr Gowher Rizvi, adviser to the prime minister on international affairs, spoke at the event as the chief guest. Renowned economist Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) Managing Director Abdul Karim and Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB) Vice-Chairperson Dr Hameeda Hossain attended the programme as the special guests.
SHED Chairman Prof Sakhawat Ali Khan and Director Philip Gain, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) Deputy Director Dr Dipankar Roy, writer Dr Harishankar Jaldas, Bangladesh Tea Workers Union General Secretary Rambhajan Kairi also spoke.
Gowher Rizvi said there are some laws in the country which hinder development of marginalised people and create discrimination against them.
He laid emphasis on amendment to such statutes and urged the non-governmental organisations to highlight the issues before the government for their prompt change.
The adviser admitted when the government tries to solve problems being faced by any marginalised segment of the people, it acts on its own way without considering their specific requirements properly.
He also supported the NGOs' plan to form a permanent platform for the marginalised people where they can raise their specific problems and requirements and suggest their solutions.
Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud, however, said as many problems and requirements of the marginal people are community-specific, so why they need separate programmes.
Highlighting the need for programmes for them, he said: "Based on the successes we have already attained, we can say that we have reduced poverty. But they (the marginalised) have to be taken out of poverty in the interest of the protection of their rights."
According to Mr Mahmud, the level of sympathy the mainstream communities show to the minorities is an indicator of development.
Dr Zillur classified poverty in Bangladesh in three stages - high general poverty, extreme poverty and poverty trap.
He said the country has successfully tackled general poverty and is working to handle extreme poverty, but poverty trap caused by exclusion and marginalisation has emerged as a big challenge.
According to the paper, excluded and marginalised people include ethnic minority communities in both hill areas and plains, tea workers, sweepers, gypsies (bede), fishermen, pig rearing community, sex workers, Biharis (stranded Pakistanis), barbers, boatmen and butchers.
It said social and economic discrimination, stigmatised occupation, occupational and political displacements are responsible for the exclusion and marginalisation.
Dr Zillur said the marginalised communities together are a big entity and laid emphasis on their unity for realisation of their rights.
Several representatives from the marginalised communities said there is no alternative to attainment of education for enjoyment of rights.