'No steps have ever been taken when local administration, and the city corporation were made aware about their grim situation'
Around 150 Bihari families living in Sadar upazila of Comilla are in no way better off than the rest of the community spread across other parts of Bangladesh.
Members of the community say they are in an endless fight to survive amidst truly terrible living conditions, deprived of basic facilities, including clean water, sanitation, secure shelter, education, nutrition, clothing, and financial security.
There are three Biharis camps in the upazila; Nunabad camp in Ranibazar area, Mofizabad camp nearby Comilla deputy commissioner's office, and the other one in the Housing Estate area.
The worst one of them is the Nunabad Bihari camp, where residents are suffering from severe lack of space, water supply, and toilets. Moreover, poor drainage system here results in a recurring water-logging problem.
On a visit to the Bihari camp, this correspondent found, each family sharing a small dingy room with no bathroom or kitchen.
There are currently around 50 families living in the Nunabad Bihari camp. Residents say, since the elevation of roads on both sides of the camp, and poor drainage system, the camp quickly overflows with sewage water, and fills with foul smell even after a light rain.
No steps have ever been taken when local administration, and the city corporation were made aware about their grim situation, they added.
Munni Begum, an elderly Bihari woman, said: “After the war, Bangladesh government settled us here. So many years have passed since then, but our conditions have never been improved.
“We did not always have a water-logging problem at the camp. Since the west side of the Nunabad pond, and adjacent roads were elevated couple of years back, it is causing serious water-logging even after a little rain.”
Comilla City Corporation Chief Executive Officer Anupam Barua said: “We acknowledge that the camps are overcrowded, but we will try to solve the essential problems first. We will also consider fixing the water-logging problem in the Nunabad camp with a better drainage system.”
Regarding the excessive mosquitoes in the camps, Anupam said: “Anti mosquito drives were conducted in several places of the city including the Bihari camps. We are trying our best in this regard.”
According to a recent report published on UNB, various estimates say there are 300,000 to 450,000 Biharis living in secluded camps across Bangladesh, more than half of them are in Dhaka. In that report Bihari people claimed, although they have NID cards, and the right to vote, because of their tag of being ‘Bihari’ they are in worse conditions than even the Rohingya refugees.
The main income sources for any able Bihari is now small businesses and small-time jobs, as the Benarasi industry is slowly dying.