Many businessmen who have never fished or even gone near the river bank have got fisherman cards and get food assistance from the government during the fishing ban every year.
On the contrary, many who live only on fishing are not registered on the list and thus do not get government assistance.
There are thousands of such fishermen in Lakshmipur and Barishal who are victims of such deprivation for almost 10 years. The government allocates a fund for fishermen for the time when fishing is banned and they have no other source of income.
Lakshmipur fishermen complained that local government representatives become involved in corruption and irregularities while preparing lists of fishermen for receiving government assistance. They demand money for including a name in the list.
However, Lakshmipur Fisheries Office claimed that the list was first made in 2012 and updated in 2020 when they excluded those who are not fishermen by profession.
There are many well-off businessmen and shop owners in Lakshmipur who hold fisherman cards and receive food assistance from the government, depriving the poor and needy fishermen who are badly in need of assistance.
For example, Mohibul Ullah Patwari, owner of Patwari Restaurant in Lakshmipur, holds a card and received rice in March and April when fishing was banned by the government. Another beneficiary Md Siraj, who owns a sawmill, has been receiving rice and other assistance from the government for many years.
On 15 May, Torabganj Union Parishad Chairman Mirza Ashraful Jaman and Union Parishad Secretary Md Gias Uddin also said at a VGF rice distribution programme that only 10% of real fishermen are included in the rest are not fishermen at all.
Having no assistance from the government, original fishermen are having hard times. For example, Abu Siddque from Shaheberhaat area in the district said he has been a fisherman for 25 years. Four of his sons are also fishermen. Unfortunately, none of them have any cards. Many others like him have been involved in fishing for a few decades.
Lakshmipur District General Secretary of Bangladesh Small Fishermen Association Md Shahjahan said updating the list every year will reduce the number of fake fishers and include real fishers.
Kamalnagar Upazila Fisheries Officer Abdul Qudduch acknowledged that there are many people from other professions on the fishermen's list. However, he also claimed that making the list is an ongoing process and people from other professions are excluded gradually.
Lakshmipur District Fisheries Officer Aminul Islam said he would take action if anyone files such complaints.
The government started a project to identify and register genuine fishermen and issue and manage their identity cards from 2012-2017.
According to the Lakshmipur District Fisheries Office, there are 38,900 card-holding fishermen in the district.
In Barishal too, many real fishermen have been deprived of the aid while those who are not fishermen are given the aid.
Nasir Uddin, a fisherman from Char Fasson in Bhola, said he has been a fisherman for his whole life but had not gotten any assistance when the government gave aid to the fishermen during the fishing ban.
"I do not know why I am not included in the list and deprived of government food assistance," said Nasir.
There are allegations of including names of those who are not fishermen against local government representatives.
Local union parishad members also acknowledged that some people on the list are not fishermen any longer but they were fishermen in the past. They changed their profession hoping for a better livelihood but failed to do so. Such people were assisted on humanitarian grounds.
Seeking anonymity, a union parishad member in Jhalakathi upazila said he provided aid to five who were not on the list of fishermen because they were very poor. They were fishermen. They changed their profession but unfortunately became ultra-poor.
Abdus Salam, chairman of Dhalchar union of Char Fasson in Bhola, also said a good number of fishermen remain out of the list and are deprived of aid. He said he would try to include real fishermen in the list.
The list of beneficiaries should be updated more frequently to ensure real needy fishermen get the aids, he suggested.
Each fisherman gets 56 kg of rice for sixty days and 40 kg for 30 days during the fishing ban.
In Barishal division, 2,80,000 fishermen get government aid and at least 8,000 are out of this scheme, said Anisur Rahman, deputy director of the fisheries department in Barishal.
"We have heard of such allegations but local government representatives are responsible for preparing the list of fishermen. It is not possible for us to determine who the real fishermen are," he added.