Low income people brawl for relief on Dhaka streets

Emran Hossain | Published: 01:19, Apr 02,2020 | Updated: 21:45, Apr 02,2020


Low-income people jostle to get packets of essential foods distributed by the shop owners association in front of the National Press Club on Wednesday. — Sony Ramany

Low income people are seen getting into fist fights or tussling with one another at places in the capital on Wednesday as food crisis deepened with the government extending the holidays by another week.

The low-income people, who live day to day, have already been out of work for a week and prices of essential foods remained high in market in the wake of coronavirus crisis.

Around 10:30am at Hossain Market in Uttar Badda, a man on a rickshaw-van was seen throwing fists around to keep a crowd of two dozen people closing in on him at bay.

The man, Shah Alam, was holding a bag of emergency supplies just donated by someone.

Only five men from the crowd managed to get their hand on the bag and tried to take control of it.

They continued to tussle with each other for a minute or two until two of them stayed determined to take the bag home.

Shah Alam finally negotiated the other man, Ibrahim, a rickshaw-puller, to let it go in exchange for Tk 60.

‘I feel ashamed but I am helpless,’ said Ibrahim as he left with the money.

The government has repeatedly assured of having enough food in stock but so far failed to put together a system to take them to the people in need.

‘Slum based open market sale of rice at Tk 10 per kg will begin from Sunday,’ food secretary Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum told New Age.

Currently per kg of subsidised coarse rice is sold at Tk 30, almost nearly the market price of Tk 40. The government subsidised shops also sell a kg of flour at Tk 18 against the market price of Tk 30.

The amount of rice and flour allotted to be distributed through OMS shops in April will feed 6.24 lakh people with rice and 12.48 lakh people with flour given that they buy 5 kg of the foods each.

On Wednesday, the government also initiated daily sale of three kilograms of rice to 2.3 lakh people at divisional and district towns for three months.

Apart from rice and flour, the government also sells soybean oil, lentil and sugar through 420 fair price shops across the country.

The fair price shops ran out of their supplies even before noon with dozens of lower middle and middle class people turning up there to get sugar and lentil at Tk 50 per kg and soybean oil at Tk 80 per litre.

Trading Corporation of Bangladesh information officer Humayun Kabir, who operate fair price shops, said that they had tripled their sales but still could provide only 13,750 people with sugar, 2,750 people with lentil and 16,500 with soybean oil in the capital.

During normal times, daily income of a fifth of 16 crore people in Bangladesh remain less than Tk 200, according to a government estimate.

Although many of more than 40 lakh low income people already left the capital for villages, still many are living in the city, unemployed.

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