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3 July, 2020 07:38:18 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 July, 2020 02:43:49 PM

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Not Covid-19, people will die from starvation

Standfirst: The Bangladesh government has declared stimulus packages for the people who needed it. The government has also launched some relief packages for the poor and the ultra-poor. However, getting government money or relief is a struggle
Rezaul Karim Reza
Not Covid-19, people will die from starvation

As lockdown eases, shops, restaurants, banks, big businesses, and small industries reopen. Business people stand or sit silently due to the lack of customers, shoppers, employers, and or commuters.

Companies close down, prices fall, and fear lingers in the air. A hard-hit economy emerges everywhere in the world, including here in Bangladesh. The working class people suddently get a halt, and stop making a living. 

Hasan Ali, a 75-year-old tea-stall vendor, closed his small honest business due to Covid-19. When he reopened his teal-stall, I, a regular ‘sit-in customer,’ met him and asked, “How is it going, Chacha (Uncle)?” Hasan replied,“No customers all day.” He sobs. Although he has reopened, people are not coming to this place of gathering. Hassan sold his two goats, the only savings he had. The money covers his daily groceries, bills, and regular medicines. Hasan has two daughters to marry off, a grandchild to take care of, plus his sick wife. His savings only covered those current expenses. Now, times are tough for him because he can only buy food two times a day. Sometimes he doesn’t eat and starves so that the food can feed his family the next day. Yes, unlike many other families across the country, Hasan’s family does not have Covid-19 but is affected by starvation.

“Lockdown is easing, but still no passengers,” says Saidur Rahman, a rickshaw puller, who sobs desperately at the crossing of Asad Gate area. In Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, Saidur has to pay the daily lease for his rickshaw to its owner. After he pays the rent on the rickshaw, electricity and water bill, he pays for his food by the remanining money. Saidur said, “I have nothing to send back to my family at home after I pay all these bills. I only get a few passengers in my rickshaw because of the fear of the Covid-19 monster.” He cries. Saidur closes up his business and goes back home, where he sees the desperate faces of the hungry children. His wife looks at him helplessly. With no little savings, Saidur starts his lockdown sufferings. Nobody is infected in his family, yet they starve.

Sakina Rana, a transgender person (hijra), rushes to this writer at a grocery shop and asks for some alms. His/her face is pale, arms are feeble, and the whole body trembles in weakness. He/she says “I didn’t eat anything last night, and my breakfast was a glass of water this morning!” and faints. This writer gave up buying fish that my family wanted so that I could give him/her some money. He/she blessed me by putting their hand on my head. Transgender people sing in public places, on buses, and at the footpaths to make a living on people’s sympathy. They bless the new-borns and get a little alms for the rest of their week. Due to the lockdown, they are not getting any other alternatives to make their living. They are not infected with Covid-19 but starve. 

Akter has a coaching centre in the village, where he teaches English to the students. He had to stop working during the lockdown. And as the lockdown is lifted, students are not coming back to class in fear of getting infected. He has no other alternatives to make a living because he dropped out of his college. He has to take care of his family. So far, nobody has contracted Covid-19 in his family or his village or the entire municipality. Akter is a buttoned-up guy! He has spent all the savings he had on this family. Now his friends have sympathy for him and his family, so he borrows from them, and he starves.

The Bangladesh government has declared stimulus packages for the people who needed it. The government has also launched some relief packages for the poor and the ultra-poor. However, getting government money or relief is a struggle. Poor people don’t know where to go or who to talk to for getting from the government packages. It is alleged that there is corruption involved in the process. The national daily newspapers state that the government is helpless and can’t respond to corrupt officials.

Some charities and personal relief are given by the rich to our society and are the only hope for the hard-hit people. Still, the help will only last for a short time. The people who are in desperate need are in very tough times at this moment. They say, “We are not infected; we will die from starvation, not from Covid-19.”

These helpless people should be immediatelty taken by the governmnet so that their suffereings in this time can be mitigated.  

The writer is a contributor to The Independent

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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