A unique “One-Minute Market” is being implemented by the Bangladesh Army in different parts of the country during the COVID-19 as a “service” not aid, is bringing smiles to marginal farmers and the ultra poor.
“It is not relief, but a service to the marginal famers and the poor in this crisis time,” Brigadier General Ahmed Tanvir Mazher Siddiqui, Director General of 34 Engineer Construction Brigade, told this correspondent.
He added that “We are buying a bulk of vegetable produced from the marginalized farmers ensuring they get the right price and also their products are not wasted after labouring hard in the fields for months.”
“On the other hand, the products are being gifted to the extreme poor and includes five kg rice and potato, soap and face mask for each on the list prepared by the local leaders … the bag of food we are gifting will help them to run for at least five days,” he said.
“We are now going to start special Eid One-Minute Market which will include Lungi, saree, soap and vermicelli to ensure they too had a good festival,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Siddiqui added that the “One-Minute Market” was conceived by Army Chief General Aziz Ahmed with a five-point guideline to provide this service during pandemic that has put the lives of thousands in difficulties.
“This is working as a mental uplift for both sides – farmers and the poor, and they are very happy … boosting our economy too at the root level is the other target,” he added.
Under the project these people are also being encouraged to stay home and maintain hygiene to contain the spread of the disease.
More than 20,000 ultra poor are benefitting from this unique scheme which is being carried by three units of the Corps of Engineers 34 Brigade along with local volunteers.
The scheme is being funded by some 200 development partners involved in mega projects of different areas under their corporate social responsibility allocation.
Asked why is it named “One-minute Market,” Brig. Gen Siddiqui said “we usually spend a lot of time in a market, but here we want our shoppers to pick their choice and move on fast.”
Similar markets were also set up in the southeastern Chittagong Hill Tracts, usually restive and where the army plays a major role in supporting peace efforts using local leaders from the tribes and Bengali-speaking settlers from the plains.
In the market, tables are set up in rows so that the shoppers who choose what they want on the table. At the entrance of the market, basins with soaps and water have been kept so that everyone coming to the market wash their hands. This also helps in spreading the message of hygiene during this COVID-19 period.
On the first table shopping bags, masks and soap are kept, then packets of rice, potatoes, ladies fingers, arum-lobe, and cowpea vegetables in different tables. Each are given food worth at least Taka 350 per bag.
Brig. Gen. Siddiqui said they planned to continue such “One-Minute Markets” in different areas of the country.