Most rickshaw pullers are now earning Tk100-300 per day, indicating that they lost over 80% of their incomes to the lockdown
Before the lockdown, rickshaw-puller Nizam Uddin earned about Tk800-1,000 per day, riding short distances in and around Dhanmondi. Since last week though, his daily income has dropped to Tk100-200.
“Yesterday, my wife and I had no food for sehri, so we just fasted without having anything. And now I am worried about today’s iftar,” he told Dhaka Tribune on Thursday — the ninth day of a strict nationwide lockdown.
“There are no people on the roads and police are also barring us from riding or carrying any passengers. There are no passengers on my rickshaw, and no food on my table,” he said.
A BRAC survey found that many low-income earners were off income during last year's general holiday. And after the general holiday (lockdown) their income is reduced by 75%.
Speaking to 20 rickshaw pullers at different locations across the capital, including Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Hazaribagh, Elephant Road, New Market, Shahbagh, Bangla Motor, Malibagh, and Moghbazar, the Dhaka Tribune found that these daily wage earners used to earn about Tk1,000-1,500 per day, on average, before the lockdown.
A rickshaw puller has to pay between Tk250 to 300 to his Mohajan (Rickshaw owner) but most of the rickshaw pullers are now earning a gross income of Tk100-300 per day, and are unable to pay the rent for the rickshaws they drive.
They have lost over 80% of their incomes to the strict lockdown enforced from April 14, which was later extended till April 28.
However, some are earning even less gross income than others.
Bulbul Islam, a rickshaw puller at the Zigatala bus stop, earned only Tk80 from 8am until 12 noon on Thursday.
“On regular days, if I ride the rickshaw for half a day, I earn Tk600,” he said.
According to a survey by research firm South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), the poverty rate rose to 42% during last year's lockdown.
During the lockdown last year, the income of rickshaw pullers in the capital had dropped by 50.3%, according to a survey by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC), in association with Unicef.
There are around 1.1 million rickshaws in more than 5,000 garages with 2.2 million rickshaw pullers working in Dhaka, found a report titled "A Study of Rickshaw Pullers in Dhaka City" published in March 2019 by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS).
Amirul Haque Amin, a member of the BILS Advisory Council, said: “Rickshaw owners are in trouble and their income is dwindling every day.
“If a rickshaw puller earns Tk100-200 per day amid the lockdown, how is he supposed to buy food for his family? The government, NGOs, and social welfare groups must pay special attention and arrange cash assistance for these people,” he further said.