Staying at home during the 10-day lockdown imposed by the government is a luxury that low-income people cannot afford
Zobayeda Khatun had been working as a helping hand at a restaurant in Chattogram for the last two years. She used to earn Tk350 a day to support her old mother and seven-year old son.
The woman, who has been abandoned by her husband, came out to beg on Sunday as the restaurant was shuttered down for an indefinite period because of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving her jobless and penniless.
"Now I have no alternative but to beg to buy medicine for my ailing mother," she told The Business Standard.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced many slum dwellers like her to beg on the streets of Chattogram City. For daily wage-earners, staying at home is a luxury they cannot afford.
On a visit to key points in Chattogram on Sunday, this correspondent found hundreds of people begging there. Most of them were women along with their kids. The women were mostly domestic workers whom their employers had sent on unpaid leave fearing that they will get infected by Covid-19 from them.
For instance, Yasmin Begum had been working at three residences including a student mess for three months at the city's Chawkbazar area. She was sent on leave from all the workplaces in the middle of this month, and was told not to return until the situation becomes normal again.
Yasmin does not know when the situation will become normal. She is even uncertain about getting her pay for this March.
The other people who were on the streets looking for help were day labourers, rickshaw pullers, hotel boys, garments workers and street hawkers. Their employers had also sent them on unpaid leave.
According to the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC), the port city has around 2,200 slums — home to nearly 1.45 million low-income people.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief declared that it will distribute 10 kilograms of rice to each of 2,000 families in Chattogram city.
The Chattogram District administration on Saturday distributed relief among 500 families. The authorities on Sunday reached more than 280 families.
Chattogram City Corporation Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin and several other people are also helping the poor in their personal capacities.
Chattogram District administration Executive Magistrate Towhidul Islam said, "We are requesting people to stay at home so that we can reach them with relief material."
The executive magistrate added that the risk of getting infected increases tremendously if people crowd the streets.