The lockdown has started affecting: rickshaw pullers, street vendors, hotel porters, domestic help, members of the transgender community, daily-wage earners, beggars, and their families
The country-wide lockdown, imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus, has left many in crisis and without a source of income.
Rafiqul Islam, who earns a living driving a rickshaw, lives in the port city's Debarpahar area with six children.
The lockdown in Chattogram, like other parts of the country, has been a major blow to Rafiqul as he is the sole earner for his family.
Another 250,000 rickshaw pullers like Rafiqul of the port city, who have just enough money or food to stay alive, are at great risk.
It has also become a fight for survival for thousands of daily-wage labourers, 25,000 street hawkers, floating sex workers, cobblers, members of the transgender community, hotel porters, domestic help, CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers, and beggars.
"I usually earn Tk600 to Tk800 every day. When the first confirmed cases of corona began to emerge in Bangladesh, my daily income started to fall dramatically. Following the army deployment, to enforce the lockdown, I could not earn anymore. This is because the streets are empty now," Rafiqul told The Business Standard.
"How would I manage to obtain food for my daughters and sons now? We are already starving," said Rafiqul with a cloud of uncertainty written all over his face.
Rasheda Begum, displaced by climate change, moved to Chattogram city from Noakhali, used to work at a lentil mill at Khatungaj. She lives in a slum of Natun Bridge area.
Rasheda's daily wage was Tk300 with which she would feed her five-member family. However, following the coronavirus outbreak, the mill ceased its operations, leaving around 50 workers unemployed.
"My husband cannot work as he is sick, and my family is dependent on me. However, I have had no work in the last four days. I do not have any rice to cook for my kids either. If things continue like this, we will starve to death," said Rasheda.
"Also I will have to pay rent of Tk2,000 to the landlord at the end of the month. If I fail to do that, he will kick me out of here. I am in a fix now."
Chattogram City Corporation's Slum Inspector Mainul Hossain Ali Chowdhury said, "There are 1.45 million slum dwellers in-and-around 2,200 slums across the city."
However, the city corporation has no data on homeless people living at railway stations and on the streets.
Around 150,000 people, mainly displaced by climate change, live in a Chhinnomul area – a large slum-like area for rootless people – adjacent to Bayezid area. Most of them are: day labourers, hotel porters, rickshaw pullers, CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers, and beggars.
"We are going to face a famine like-situation. There are many day labourers and hotel porters who do not have any work now. There are beggars, too, who cannot go out because of the lockdown," Kazi Moshiur Rahman, general secretary of Chattogram Mohanagar Chhinnomul Bastibashi Samannay Sangram Parishad, told The Business Standard.
"We are struggling to survive amid this crisis. We badly need the government's support," said Md Miron Hossain Million, president of Chattogram Sommilito Hawker Federation.
However, Deputy Commissioner of Chattogram Elias Hossain told The Business Standard that they are distributing relief, received from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, along with the city corporation to these low income people.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, on Thursday, declared it would distribute 10 kilogrammes of rice to each of 2,000 families in the city.