A protest rally was also held in front of Barisal City Corporation
Expressing their disappointment at a drastic fall in income during lockdown, at least 500 rickshaw-pullers brought out a procession in Barisal city demanding aid and rations while under the ongoing spell of restrictions.
They came out on the streets with vacant rickshaws under the banner of Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (Basad) and its workers front, Samajtantrik Sramik Front, from the city’s Ashwini Kumar Hall premises at around 11:30 am on Saturday.
Chanting slogans against the lockdown and demanding relief, the protesters covered the city’s major roads, areas and intersections, including Sadar Road, Hospital Road, Nathullabad and Amtala Mor before ending the procession at the Barisal City Corporation building, where they held a rally.
One of the protesters, Abdul Karim, said: “We run rickshaws to make a living. If we can’t do that, who will arrange our livelihood?”
Another protester, Md Kabir, said rickshaw-pullers faced obstruction from police whenever they looked for passengers. “If we are forced to sit idle, who will feed us?” he questioned.
Dulal Mallik, president of Barisal Rickshaw-Van Driver and Workers Union, said most of the rickshaw-pullers in the city were in distress owing to the lockdown as it was taking a heavy toll on their daily income.
Manik Hawlader, general secretary of the Barisal district unit of Samajtantrik Sramik Front, said during last year’s lockdown, the district administration and the city corporation had distributed food and other relief assistance among them.
“But this time around, we’re not getting such assistance from the authorities,” he said.
Basad’s Barisal city unit Member Secretary Dr Manisha Chakraborty, addressing the rally, said the party was not against the lockdown.
“We’re just demanding relief for daily wage earners like rickshaw-pullers who lead a hand to mouth existence,” she said.
She demanded that the government facilitate free Covid-19 tests for such low-income people.