About 300 weavers and over a thousand of their dependents in Debiganj upazila of Panchagarh are now facing starvation due to the countrywide shutdown since last week of March.
The weavers in Sundardighi union of the upazila are going through severe hardship after five handloom factories they worked at had to be closed.
The factories -- located in Tantipara, Hajipara, Basuniapara and Bandarpara villages -- usually pay each worker between Tk 300 and Tk 350 daily.
As almost all their income is spent on essentials every day, the craftsmen can hardly set aside any money for savings. As a result, they face extensive sufferings whenever they go out of work.
Under the circumstances, food relief needs to be sent to the area urgently to save most of the weavers and their families from starvation.
Till date, the craftsmen did not receive any food assistance from the government due to insufficient allocation of relief materials for Sundardighi union.
Paresh Chandra Roy, chairman of Sundardighi Union Parishad, told this correspondent that last week he received government relief materials for only 150 people -- an allocation that is insufficient for a large number of people who went jobless due to the shutdown in his union.
The materials have already been distributed to some of the affected people including rickshaw-van pullers, day labourers and employees of small shops.
He said if a second consignment of relief materials is allocated for the union, after distributing those to the worst affected, he might be able to distribute the same to 25 to 30 weavers.
While visiting Basuniapara area in Sundardighi union, weaver Kalpana Rani said she and her rickshaw-puller husband are struggling to feed their family of five as her husband had been staying home while her factory had been shuttered amid the nationwide shutdown.
They did not receive any sort of assistance from anyone, she said, adding that her weekly income at a handloom factory was around Tk 2,100 a week.
Prodip Basunia, another weaver from Bandarpara village, said his weekly income used to be Tk 2,500, with which he used to provide for his family of six members.
With no work for over a week now and no relief from anyone, he and his family members have been passing each day in immense sufferings.
Many of the weavers said work orders for handloom cloth increase in the months prior to the Pahela Baishakh festivities, celebrated on April 14, when demand for local clothing items see the sharpest rise compared to its demand throughout the rest of the year.
Because the demands remain nominal through the rest of the year, this is the time of the year they look forward to for some extra earnings, they lamented.
The owners of the handloom factories echoed the same sentiment. They said the major share of their revenue is generated on the occasion of the Pahela Baishakh. But with their factories shuttered before the festivities this year, they will incur a massive loss.
Hand Touch, located in Basuniapara village, is one such factory that employs 120 weavers. Its manager, Munir Hossain, said their employees went out of work on March 24 when they closed the factory amid fear of spreading the Covid-19 pandemic.
The factory will now count huge losses due to cancellation of a large number of work orders that were made ahead of the Pahela Baishakh, he added.
Abdul Mazid, owner of another handloom factory named Touch Fashion, said he would lose Tk 8 lakh for cancelling deliveries intended for the Pahela Baishakh.
While he has been pondering over the ways he can stand by the weavers in their difficult time, he said he was also worried how he would repay about the same amount of money that he had loaned from different sources including several non-governmental organisations.
Asked, Debiganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Prottoy Hassan said they were following the prime minister's directives in setting priorities for sending out assistance to the people affected due to the shutdown in the upazila and eventually they will send assistance for all the jobless.