The low-income group people, mostly day labourers, are unemployed for the coronavirus situation
Mohammad Bashir, a rickshaw puller and resident of the Nakhalpara Rail Gate slum, is unable to earn as much as he used to since the roads are devoid of passengers due to a nationwide shutdown.
In the past few days, Bashir also used up all his savings, leaving him to wonder how he would put the next meal on the table.
On Tuesday, he felt relieved after buying 5kg of rice from an Open Market Sell (OMS) truck for Tk10 per kg in front of his slum.
"We need to eat to live. My serial number was 173 and after waiting for one and half hours, I got 5kg rice," Bashir told The Business Standard.
To prevent spread of coronavirus, shopping malls, stores, garment factories and other businesses have been shut down, leaving the low-income people – mostly day labourers – unemployed.
A queue of around 200 people were found in front of the OMS truck at the Nakhalpara Rail Gate slum. They were getting rice by showing their national identity cards.
"I am in Dhaka although the garment factory is closed now. I do not know when the factory will reopen or when I will get paid. This Tk10 rice is my only lifeline right now," said Rashida Begum, a garment worker who lives in Nakhalpara.
Some other buyers in the queue said that they find it challenging to arrange their daily meals as they are unemployed at the moment.
So, they are always in search of OMS sales and other government relief materials.
Sources at the food directorate said the sale of OMS rice began from Sunday.
They sell the products in slum areas every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. In the first day, only two trucks sold the rice but from Tuesday, 24 trucks have been engaged in selling, the sources added.
The special OMS sale has been operational in different areas of the capital including Nakhalpara, Bhasantek, Rupnagar, Makhalai, and Harun Mollah slum in Mirpur 12.
From each of the trucks, around 600 people can purchase 5kg rice each, said the sources.
However, the OMS dealers said that the number of buyers is more and many of them have to return without making a purchase.
"We can sell rice to a maximum of 600 people. Many of them are returning without buying anything as they arrive late," said Nasir Uddin, an OMS dealer.
Mizanur Rahman, another OMS dealer, said, "People need more but we cannot sell every day. If we could sell daily, there would have been lower pressure of customers."
Food Secretary Dr Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum said they have no idea about how long this pandemic will last.
"So, we are selling rice on a limited scale in the slum areas. But we will extend to other areas if it is necessary."