• Wednesday, Oct 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:16 am

Covid-19: The poor struggle to make ends meet, the rich stockpile essentials

  • Published at 07:48 pm March 23rd, 2020
coronavirus-volunteer-rickshaw
Photo: Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Rickshaw pullers, CNG auto rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers and hawkers are among those affected by the dwindling number of buyers and service seekers

The Covid-19 pandemic is drawing a stark contrast between the rich and the poor, with the wealthy stockpiling daily essentials while the poor struggle to get by.

Fear of the extremely contagious coronavirus has led many to stay home, bringing economies around the world to a grinding halt. The upper and middle class of Bangladesh have enough money saved to self-isolate, but people in low-income groups who are heavily reliant on daily earnings, are feeling the weight of customers drying up.

Rickshaw pullers, CNG auto rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers and hawkers are among those affected by the dwindling number of buyers and service seekers.  

Ripon Biswas, a cobbler who works in Dhanmondi, has four family members. He earned Tk60 on Monday and Tk100 the day before. Now, he has to go to the kitchen market to buy food.

“People are not leaving their houses, but I have to go outside as I have to earn so I can provide food for my children. I have been suffering a lot with the lack of customers over the past week,” Ripon said.

“Rich people are stocking up on essentials by the sack, but what are we supposed to do? I am going to the kitchen market now and will see what I can buy with today’s earnings,” the cobbler added.

Transport workers said the lack of commuters had them worrying about whether they may lose their jobs.

Lokman Hossain is a bus driver for Mirpur Link Paribahan. On Monday, he was driving on the Azimpur-Mirpur route with 11 passengers.

“The last week has been the worst of my life in terms of commuters. In the age of coronavirus, it is difficult to raise enough money to even pay for fuel. [On Sunday] the bus owner had to pay me Tk300 from his own wallet for the fuel,” Lokman said.

“If the bus owner is not making enough money from the bus fare to pay for fuel, how is he supposed to pay my wages,” the bus driver added. 

“Public transport may be stopped from March 25. When that happens, we will be fully unemployed,” he further said.

Rickshaw puller Mustafizur Rahman said : “I used to earn Tk 500-600 every day. In the last week, I have been earning about Tk300 a day and I have to pay Tk100 to the rickshaw owner daily. I am thinking of returning to my village, but there is no work there either.”

Masud Rana, a washman, said : “I have to pay Tk11,000 per month as rent for the house where I stay with my four member family. I have to pay another Tk4,500 as shop rent, and then the electricity bill on top of that. 

“Normally I earn Tk 500-800 a day, but I have been earning Tk 150-200 per day for the last week. How am I supposed to pay all of my rent and bills? How can I feed my family?” he said.

On the other hand, about a dozen customers were seen waiting in line at the Daily Super Shop in Shewrapara. Most of them had trolleys that were full to the brim.

Shahedul Islam, one of the customers, said he was stockpiling essentials in case Dhaka went into lockdown.

“Dhaka may go into lockdown, so I am buying essentials for my family to prepare,” he said.

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