Finding no other solution, he decided to sell one of his sources of income
Asadul Islam, 60, came to Dhaka from Bogra in search of a better life for his family 28 years ago. Since then, he has been driving his CNG run autorickshaw in the capital to provide for his family.
It has been 10 years since Asadul became debt-free. He bought 2 CNG run autorickshaws during this time — one he drove himself and the other was rented to someone else. His family’s welfare and his son’s education are dependent on his income.
“I bought 2 CNG autorickshaws with my life savings. I can’t drive like I did in the past as I’m getting old. So it was a great weight off my shoulders when I bought the second autorickshaw,” the 60-year-old told Dhaka Tribune.
But his income was halved when the lockdown was enforced to control the spread of coronavirus. “There were almost zero passengers on most days,” he said.
Also Read- In a time of shutdown
Asadul lived his days in uncertainty as he could not even manage the cost of food for his family on several occasions.
Finding no other solution, he decided to sell one of his sources of income.
“The person who rented one of my autorickshaws returned to his village, which only made matters worse; my income decreased further. I had to sell that autorickshaw for Tk90,000 to support my family and survive during the three-month lockdown period,” Asadul said.
He has to provide for his son’s family as well. Rashedul Islam, his elder son, is now unemployed as the workshop he worked at closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rashedul, along with his wife and daughter, now lives with his father.
On top of that, Asadul also has to pay his younger son’s college tuition fees.
“I live with my children in a two-room house; the rent is Tk4,000. I struggle to manage food for this family of six every day. In addition, I still owe three months’ rent,” he stated.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, he used to earn Tk1,000 a day. It took him a whole week to earn that amount amid the lockdown.
‘People like me will die due to poverty, not Covid-19’
The lockdown has been lifted but he still cannot earn as he did before.
New diseases like Covid-19 will cause many deaths. But people like him will die due to poverty, Asadul whimpered.
He said he does not follow the health directives like washing hands even though he goes out of his house every day in search of customers.
“But I’m still healthy. What does that signify?” he questioned this correspondent.
Asked whether he is unafraid of the deadly virus, Asadul said: “I don't know what's so scary about it. I only saw on television that people are suffering because of it. Amid all these things, the lockdown has made people like us penniless.”
Queried about the mask on his face, removed it instantly which showed a smile on his face. “I have a granddaughter to protect. The rest is in the hand of the Almighty.” he remarked.
“I earn Tk500 a day at the most now. I don’t know how I can provide for my family for the whole month if things don’t change.”
“I think it’s the work of an invisible evil entity which came to harm the people of this country,” the autorickshaw driver continued.
Asadul has to spend Tk250 from his daily earnings for his food while he is on the road. He uses the rest of the money — around Tk250 — to buy food for his family.
He has not been able to pay his fixed deposit instalments. Instead, he has to withdraw money to pay the house rent.
“I was forced to sell my CNG run autorickshaw — which cost me TK3.5 lakh — for only Tk90,000. Now who’ll look after me in my old age? The government?” Asadul lamented.
In the middle of the conversation in Mohammadpur, a man came and asked Asadul if he would take him to the High Court. After a brief negotiation, they fixed the fare at Tk200.
Asadul wiped the sweat on his forehead.
“As you can see, no one has money to spare. I used to take Tk300 as fare for the same distance.
“I’m leaving now, apa (sister). If I sit and talk to you any longer, my family will go unfed. I managed to get a passenger after a long two hours,” Asadul bid goodbye with a sense of relief in his voice.