The economists and development experts observed that the government incentives for keeping the poor confined to their homes during the unofficial lockdown was very inadequate for which many members of the working class resumed work for food ignoring the ban.
Five days after the declaration of the lockdown on March 26, they said, more informal sector workers were coming out of their residences across the country for not getting food or other incentives risking exposure to the highly contagious coronavirus.
‘Bangladesh’s preparation is the worst for mitigating the coronavirus crisis among the world. The capitalist countries of the west aside, India’s central government allocated social safety programme for 80 crore people. Their states also declared millions of rupees as additional fund,’ said Jhangirnagar university economics professor Anu Muhammad.
Bangladesh government announced incentives for the owners of the garment factories to pay salaries to the workers, Anu continued and added, ‘Other than that we did not see any formal announcement of incentives for informal workers, peasants, workers of small industries and others.’
Dhaka university population science professor Mohammad Mainul Islam said that the government did not draw up any comprehensive plan to support the poor when all of them became jobless.
‘We see some makeshift programmes run by different agencies but those are not enough to cover thousands of the urban poor, a significant number of whom recently returned to their home districts,’ he said.
Many informal and small industry sector workers said that they did not get any government support and resumed works knowing the risk.
‘I wonder how I will survive with my family if such ban continues,’ a human hauler driver Jasim Uddin from Madartek said.
Hazrat Ali, a rickshaw puller from Ambagan, Moghbazar said he started pulling rickshaw defying the ban as he had no savings to fall back on.
Sharing his bitter experience on Sunday, rickshaw puller Mohammad Selim said that he went to take relief from Dhaka South City Corporation mayor at Nagarbhaban but did not get any.
‘As soon as the photo-shoot of the mayor was over, the corporation stopped distributing relief,’ he said.
SME foundation managing director Md Shafiqul Islam said that around 2.5 crore workers in the sector would face hardship over the closure of the factories.
‘We demand special incentives as the government allocated Tk 5,000 crore for the garment owners to clear the wages of 45 lakh garment workers,’ Shafiqul said.
Tk 81,000 crore will be required if the government was willing to provide food for the poor during the next six months as mentioned by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina in her March 25 speech, Dhaka University economics professor Abul Barkat mentioned.
He calculated the amount and said that Tk 75 would be needed for each of the six crore poor per day as the number of poor, he argued, increased following the emergence of COVID-19.
Transparency International Bangladesh, in a release on Sunday, demanded allocation of 10 per cent of the GDP for mitigating the crisis.
State minister for disaster management Enamur Rahman said that the ministry already distributed Tk 8.81 crore and 31,200 metric tonnes of rice to deputy commissioners of 64 districts to be distributed among the poor in coordination with the MPs and elected local government bodies.
‘We can provide more from Tk 50 crore fund and 1,24,000 packets of essentials for each of the five-member families,’ he said.
Dhaka South City Corporation mayor Sayeed Khokon denied the allegation that people were not getting relief. He claimed that the corporation from its own fund would distribute relief among 50,000 poor families.
Dhaka North City Corporation mayor Atiqul Islam also announced similar support programme.
While distributing relief organised by Dhaka WASA, LGRD minister Md Tajul Islam said relief for the poor would continue.