Thousands of transport workers in the port city are facing financial troubles due to the ongoing government declared shutdown to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
They and their families are struggling to get by as their main sources of income have disappeared following the suspension of transports. Workers claimed that no transport workers' organisation are taking steps to minimise their misery by providing aid.
In these circumstances, Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP)'s north traffic zone is providing food to the workers as part of their ongoing aid programme across the city.
CMP Commissioner Md Mahabubor Rahman inaugurated the relief distribution programme in port city's Engineering Institute on Sunday.
With the help of S Alam Group, CMP will carry out distribution, said police officials.
CMP Deputy Commissioner (Traffic North) Md Shahidullah told The Daily Star, "We will distribute relief among 3,000 transport workers across the city as per our list."
Police officials will go to designated spots and hand over food packages -- which will include rice, lentil, oil, onion and potato -- keeping social distancing in mind, Shahidullah said.
According to leaders of transport workers' organisations, there are one lakh transport workers under greater Chattogram.
Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation leaders said 13,000 CNG-run auto-rickshaws used to ply the port city roads, and 40,000 used to move about in the districts.
Around 20,000 trucks and covered-vans usually carried goods from the port to other parts of the country, but that number has significantly gone down. Buses running on different routes have stopped, and human haulier and Laguna workers are in a miserable condition, they said.
Transport workers said they are struggling to provide food for their families, while house rent, their children's school fees and other expenses for April are worsening the situation. Apart from all that, Ramadan is approaching and Eid related expenses will introduce a new set of challenges.
They have questioned the role of transport organisations during the crisis, saying that every month before the outbreak, the organisations took money from them for welfare funds. But during the crisis, none of them provided support.
Contacted, Md Musa, president of Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation (Chattogram region), said, "Yes, we used to take money for providing support in case any worker dies or is critically injured in an accident."
"We have set guideline on how we can spend the money. We are trying our best to support the workers so they can get through this difficult time," he said.
The workers, who currently have no income source, earned money on a daily-basis, but now, their condition is worse than that of apparel workers, he added.
"We are providing aid from different sources but it's not enough," said the transport leader. "We are hopeless, as there is no direct government assistance for our sector to survive the global crisis," he added.