Pharmacies are the go-to source for their primary healthcare
A recent study has found that 94% of Dhaka's rickshaw-pullers expressed going through some form of health complications due to the nature of their work.
The baseline research titled "Organizing the Informal Economy Workers: A Study on Rickshaw-pullers in Dhaka City", was conducted by Professor Rezaul Karim, and Khandoker Abdus Salam, and published by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) on Thursday.
200 rickshaw-pullers from four areas—Badda, Hazaribagh, Jatrabari, and Shahjahanpur—participated in the survey. Researchers also interviewed 20 rickshaw garage owners, officials from both city corporations, and the traffic division of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
Speaking at the event, Trade Union Trainer, and Consultant of BILS, Khandoker Abdus Salam, said: "94% of the respondents said they went through some sort of health complications. The respondents identified fever, cold and cough, pain, weakness, jaundice, and dysentery as the main diseases they suffered from."
The researchers further said pharmacies are the go-to source for primary healthcare for these labourers.
"96% of the rickshaw-pullers take health care services from pharmacies," Abdus Salam said, adding that only 34% of them went to government hospitals, mostly when faced with critical illnesses.
The researchers blamed their food habits for most of their health complications, as about 91% of the respondents ate from make-shift eateries by the roads, and sidewalks.
During the research, one-fifth of the respondents said they had taken their Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams, and that some 60% are literate.
"We found that many rickshaw-pullers, who are HSC or university students, are paying their course fees, and meeting their daily expenses through this work," said Abdus Salam, adding the respondents said they are earning more than what they were from their previous jobs.
Khandoker Abdus Salam said that understanding the socio-economic status of rickshaw-pullers, and their rights was important in recognizing their contribution to the city.
"We recommend opening of Tk10 bank accounts for them—similar to the ones for farmers—to incorporate them into the formal secure transaction system,” he added.
Md Ensur Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik League, said there are some 60,000 battery-run rickshaws operating on the roads illegally. "These need to be stopped for the sake of survival of the paddle-run rickshaw-pullers."
President of the Bangladesh Rickshaw and Van Owners’ Federation, Md Harun-or-Rashid, said 99% of the respondents were not members of any organization working on welfare of rickshaw-pullers.
Among others, members of parliament Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan, and Shirin Akhter were also present at the event. Both lawmakers assured labour rights leaders that the recommendations made by the study would be placed in the parliament in July.
BILS President Habibur Rahman Siraj presided over the program.