Poor throng city streets for relief

Lacked relief coordination blamed

Rashad Ahamad | Published: 00:40, Apr 04,2020


Aid seekers receive rice from a rolling car in Basabo area of the capital city as well-off people extend their support to mitigate livelihood crisis of low-income people during countrywide virtual lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. — Sony Ramany

People continued to gather at most road intersections in the city for food as families who live from day to day have been out of work since the government declared public holiday for ensuring social distancing to prevent the coronavirus pandemic.

During the shutdown, city’s day labourers took to the streets in search of food violating the emergency regulations, exposing themselves to the risk of novel coronavirus transmission.

On the city’s major streets, including Mirpur Road and Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, on Friday several poor people, mostly women and children, were seen standing beside the road with bags expecting relief.

Dhaka city has more than 5,000 slums where four million people, including 30,000 street people, live. They are considered urban poor.

Asma Akter, one of the 15 women waiting for relief at Dhanmondi 27 bus stand on Mirpur Road, said that every day she and her neighbours gathered on the spot expecting aid from people.

She said that in the morning a group of people distributed khichuri in packets and till 3:00pm she did not receive anything further.

‘I have two children, a sick husband at home but I received only one packet of khichuri,’ she said.

Hosna Begum, another woman at the same spot, said that she had collected at least three packets of relief materials for her family as she and her rickshaw-puller husband alternately stay on streets for relief.

She said that she received relief materials three times from private volunteers after the shutdown had begun on March 26.

‘My house owner put my name on the government list for relief but I am yet to receive anything,’ she said.

In every corner of the major streets of the capital hundreds of people regularly gather to get relief as there was no management decision on relief distribution.

Aysha Nahar, a 55-year-old woman at Hatirpool, alleged that many families get huge relief than they needed while some family was yet to get anything.

While scrambling for relief in many locations across the city, the low-income people were seen getting into fist fights or scuffling with one another.

The low-income people, who live from day to day, have already been out of work for a week while the prices of essentials remained high in the market during the coronavirus crisis that infected 61 people and killed six till Friday.

Dhaka South City Corporation authority distributed food and cash among the destitute people violating the social distancing norms and allowing people to gather in groups. 

Faced with criticism, the mayor of the city Mohammad Sayeed Khokon said that they would not let people gather anymore. They started distributing relief door-to-door through ward councillors among 50,000 targeted people based on their list of needy people.

Bangladesh Police in a press statement urged people and agencies to inform them before distributing relief so that police could ensure social distancing during distribution.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday night asked all to ensure relief support for the poor based on the Standing Orders on Disaster that asked local public representatives and administrations to lead the coordination.

The working class people, mostly day-labourers, housemaids, rickshaw-pullers and small vendors, lost their income as the government announced initially 10-day public holiday from March 26 and slapped ban on all modes of public transports to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The holiday has been extended to April 11.

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