Low-income people, especially slum dwellers, who have been left with no work amid the nationwide shutdown aimed at curbing the coronavirus were seen waiting at different intersections of the city on Sunday in the hope of getting food and relief materials.
On March 23, the government declared general holidays from March 26 until April 4 to prevent the transmission of deadly coronavirus which was later extended to April 13 in two phases asking people to stay indoors and maintain social distancing.
As there are no activities and movement of vehicles in the capital, low-income people, particularly rickshaw-pullers, domestic helps and day-labourers, have become jobless.
With nothing to eat at homes, they took to the streets and took position in different intersections with a hope to get food and relief materials being distributed by different organisations, mayors of two Dhaka city corporations, local ward councillors, police and individuals.
This correspondent found a group of people, numbering 10-12, sitting on the footpath of Agargaon crossing in the afternoon.
When asked about the reason behind their waiting on the footpath defying government’s instructions to stay home, they replied that they were waiting for relief materials.
As they were reminded that different organisations and individuals are distributing relief materials in different areas, including slums, where low-income people live, they said they were yet to get any relief materials.
One of them, Roksana, 55, who used to do sewing work, resides in Comilla Slum near the Nirbachan Bhaban in Agargaon. Her two sons pull rickshaws while two daughters work as domestic helps and now all of them are jobless as the government asked all to stay at home.
“My daughters were asked by their employers not to go to work. My sons also can’t go out with rickshaws as most city dwellers are staying at home,” she said, adding that they have no food at their homes. “That’s why I’m waiting here for relief.”
Zohara, 60, who is also a resident of the same slum, used to work as domestic help. She has two sons, who are physically challenged, and her husband is also unable to work as he is sick.
“I went to Agargaon Police Station for relief as I knew that police are distributing food but I didn’t get anything there. No-one came to our slum for distributing food yet,” she said.
Another group of slum-dwellers was waiting on the street near Islamic Foundation Bhaban at Agargaon. One of them named Rehana, 58, said she is living in ‘Hajir Slum’ near the building.
Her family consists of five members -- her two sons are rickshaw-pullers while her husband is a day-labourer – all are now jobless. “We haven’t received any food or relief materials from any individual or organisation,” she said, adding that she was waiting at the intersection for food.
Halima, 60, who works as a domestic help, is also living at the same slum. "I’m living with my daughter whose husband is a rickshaw-puller. He can’t go out from the slum for lack of passengers due to the shutdown. I’m also jobless. I’m waiting here for relief," she said.
Rich people and the government should come forward to distribute relief in each slum so that low-income people can get something to eat, she said.
Another person died from coronavirus in the country and 18 more people tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours till Sunday morning, raising the number of deaths to nine and confirmed cases to 88.