Life of rickshaw-pullers was never easy, and the ban makes their lives considerably more difficult
Md Alam is a rickshaw-puller from Gendaria area of Dhaka. Originally from Kalai Upazila of Jaipurhat, he mainly stays in his village to cultivate the land.
During the off season, he comes to Dhaka and lives here for 4-5 months to earn money as a rickshaw-puller. But the government’s decision to ban rickshaw on three major streets has put uncertainty over his income.
“I have two children and one of them attends school. Usually, I earn more than Tk 800. But in last two days I didn’t earn more than Tk 500,” said Alam, expressing his shock on the authorities’ decision.
“If the rickshaw ban continues I wouldn’t be able to bear my daughter’s educational expenses,” he added.
Alam said he lives with other rickshaw pullers in a garage at 100 Katha area of Gendaria. He spends more than Tk350 per day for food, living and rickshaw rent.
One-third of the rickshaw-pullers in Dhaka are seasonal, just like Alam, the rest do this full-time. Many of the seasonal rickshaw-pullers are from North Bengal.
Md Al Amin, 27, a rickshaw-puller from Mogbazar area also expressed his concern over the government’s decision.
“I came to Dhaka more than three years ago, and I have no other professional skills. If the authority bans rickshaw on main roads, I have to go back to home. I livelihood will be seriously threatened,” Al Amin said.
He said his parents and newly married wife live in Sirajgonj’s Chowhali area. They are economically depended on him.
Many rickshaw-pullers of Dhaka are victims of the climate change and Md Shahin, 27, is one of them. He came to Dhaka as a victim of river erosion from Lalmohon Upazilla of Bhola. He used to catch Hilsa fish. After losing his land he took the profession of pulling rickshaw in the capital.
“I bought a piece of land in Bhola with my income of rickshaw pulling. Now I’m planning to shift my wife and daughters to Dhaka. But due to the ban, it seems impossible,” he added.
According to a recent report from Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), around 11 lakh rickshaws are currently running in Dhaka. The number of rickshaw-pullers are almost double.
“If rickshaw-pullers don’t get the opportunity to take fares on some roads, it will create a bad impact on our economy as their families are also depending on them,” said Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, a researcher from Work for Better Bangladesh (WBB).