The poor earn less due to shrinking work, but pay more for essentials amid corona scare
There is a rickshaw garage in the city's Banglamotor. Around 22 rickshaws were found locked in the garage on Saturday. Several rickshaw pullers said many are unwilling to pull rickshaws as the number of trips has dropped drastically.
"It has become difficult to earn from Tk200-Tk250 by pulling rickshaws for the whole day. However, it was easy to earn between Tk600 and Tk700 daily in a normal situation," said rickshaw puller Md Kamrul.
Rickshaw-van pullers face a similar situation. A number of van pullers, who used to carry items from and to offices and homes, were seen spending time near Dainik Bangla water tank in conversation.
Their work has declined due to the corona outbreak.
Workers used to wait every morning at different spots in the city, including Banglamotor, Dainik Bangla, Motijheel and Rampura in expectations of being hired for various kinds of work, including construction, electric work and painting.
But the situation has changed. They have not been gathering at those places for the last few days.
Ariful Islam, a tea vendor near Rampura television centre, where workers used to gather every morning, said they had not appeared there for the last two or three days because they have no jobs. And many of them have, meanwhile, left the capital for their village homes.
Similarly, people who are dependent on daily wages in different slum areas in the capital are not getting work as employment opportunities have shrunk due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, lower income people are confronted with hard times.
The market situation is however different. Dishonest traders have been increasing the prices of such essentials as rice, lentils, onions and eggs every day. This has created pressure on the lower income people.
Shafiq Mia, a resident of Rampur Bagichartek slum, said, "I carry goods on my van. I did not get a single trip during the last one week. Four members of my family are dependent on my income. Now it has become difficult for us to manage our meals."
According to a 2014 census by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, there are 1,639 slums under Dhaka North City Corporation and 1,755 under Dhaka South City Corporation, where more than 1.5 lakh people live.
These people are facing serious difficulties as their income has deceased and cost of living has gone up significantly.
Ghulam Rahman, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, told The Business Standard, "More OMS programmes should be undertaken now. Prices of rice and flour should be brought down, if necessary. The government has to take such programmes which will benefit all in this time of pandemic."
In reality, open market sales (OMS) of rice and flour by the Directorate General of Food are going on half-heartedly. The dealers are selling flour but they are not collecting rice. Now a kg of coarse rice is selling for more than Tk40.
Food Minister Sadhan Chandra Majumder said at a recent press conference, "Dealers have been directed to sell rice." But in reality the dealers are not selling OMS rice.
The government sells rice at Tk30 per kg and flour at Tk18.
Food Secretary Dr Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum told The Business Standard, "We have directed the dealers to collect rice and they have been doing it. We have intensified the monitoring so that the rice is not sold in the black market."
She further said the authorities are taking preparations so that assistance can be extended if garment factories are closed for some reasons in this time of the corona pandemic as also for those working on a daily basis need help.
According to data from the food ministry, the government has a stock of 14.29 lakh tonnes of rice and 3.22 lakh tonnes of wheat as of March 15.
Besides, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) sells lentils for Tk50 a kg, soybean oil at Tk80, onions at Tk35 and sugar at 50 on trucks at 50 points in the capital.
TCS has been selling these essentials at 350 points across the country.