Fourth Day of Lockdown: Daily wage earners come out to streets | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 18, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:42 AM, April 18, 2021

Fourth Day of Lockdown: Daily wage earners come out to streets

Before the first phase of restrictions following the surge of Covid-19 cases, Md Bablu (23) used to drive buses in the port city. He came to the capital recently for a better life, but as the weeklong "strict lockdown" started from April 14, his income came down to zero.

Bablu is now struggling, trying his best to earn some money by pulling a rickshaw at the capital's Rayer Bazar.

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"It's my second day in Dhaka. I can get around Tk 300 now. If I didn't choose to pull rickshaw, my family would have to starve," a helpless Bablu said.

Bablu said he used to drive for Rabbi-Rafi Paribahan in Chattogram three days a week and earned Tk 1,000 daily. As the bus service was closed due to the lockdown, he came to Dhaka for a job.

"But now, police officers are harassing us at check-posts. The government didn't think how people like us will live for the whole week," he said.

Like Bablu, people from the low-income group, who live their lives based on daily income, are the worst sufferers during this lockdown.

And now, such people are coming out into the streets to voice their plight.

Being obstructed by the administration, rickshaw-pullers yesterday protested in Barishal and Dhaka, demanding ration for day labourers or allowance to carry on during the lockdown.

Talking to people out on the streets, these correspondents found that day labourers chose to come out since their income vanished.

Visiting Gabtoli in the capital, the correspondents found that some bus staffers like drivers and helpers were not happy with the government action.

"The ruling party used us for everything. When BNP or any other party call strike, we are told to drive buses. If any bus gets vandalised, bus owners enjoy the privileges. But we don't get anything when we need it," a bus driver said, wishing not to be named.

"We have no savings. Now, we can't drive buses; we have no income. Even if we protest, we will lose our jobs…You can understand our situation," added another bus staffer.

They said that they did not get any aid from bus owners or the worker's union in this lockdown.

This situation is similar in other parts of the country.

Rickshaw-pullers, roadside vendors, mostly those from non-formal and low-income groups in Barishal, Kushtia, Rangpur and Dinajpur, are passing hard days, as their daily income dropped to nothing.

The situation has become more unfortunate, as there has been no support from the affluent, unlike last year, reports our correspondents in the districts.

Alamgir Hossain Lalon has been pulling rickshaw in Kushtia for about seven years. His baby needed medicine, as he has been suffering from a cold.

To get medicine, Alamgir went out with his rickshaw, but police seized it, the only source of his income, from the town's Choy Rasta More on Thursday morning.

"I managed to get the rickshaw back after 30 hours. The rickshaw's owner refused to give it anymore. Now I have no work," a frustrated Alamgir said.

Mokhlesur Rahman, who sells flowers and saplings in front of Rangpur city's Surabhi Udyan, said the lockdown has weighed heavily on him. Failing to sell the saplings, he had to take all of them to his home to save them. Sale of saplings usually rise during summer, but this time, the situation is different.

Kohinur Begum sells betel leaves and cigarettes at a roadside shop in Dinajpur town's Kalitola area.

"Last year, we got adequate support from the government, non-government organisations, and others to feed my family members. Besides, then we had savings. But I didn't see any such initiatives this year," she said.

LOCKDOWN LOOSENED

As the weeklong "strict lockdown" rolled into its  fourth day,  restrictions seemed a bit loosened. Yesterday, public movement and vehicles like private cars, rickshaws and  auto-rickshaws were more readily seen on most of the streets and intersections of the capital, compared to the  first and third day of the lockdown.

Many people faced difficulties going to work, as they went to their destinations on foot or by rickshaw, failing to get other vehicles.

Rickshaws, which provide last-mile connectivity to residents, were seen plying by-lanes of the main roads. Kitchen markets in the city too remained open, with crowds forming in the morning.

Some were seen leaving and coming into the capital, dodging police check-posts. On Dhaka-Aricha highway, they were using different transports between check-posts as a tactic.

A traffic sergeant at Asad Gate said, "Today [yesterday], more people are coming out than the other days. They are showing various reasons. Many of them were unaware about the movement pass." 

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