Marginalised communities in the country – the Dalits, indigenous groups, transgender people, and RMG workers – did not get enough support from the government during the pandemic, according to a study.
The study was conducted by Christian Aid and the findings of the study were presented in a webinar on how to strengthen civic engagement in post-pandemic times, jointly organised by Christian Aid Bangladesh and The Business Standard on Wednesday.
Dr Kazi Nurmohammad Hossainul Haque, who took part in the research, presented the study during the webinar.
A lot of the plain land indigenous communities – including Santals, Mahali, and Garos – were disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic, according to the study, as they allegedly received little (if any) government relief. The research found that the distribution of government aid has often failed to be systematic.
The study found that some 60%-70% of the Dalit community lost their traditional income source during the pandemic. Cleaning workers in some public hospitals were not allowed entry into the quarantine facilities of their hospitals when they contracted the virus.
The study further discovered transgenders to be the most excluded, most marginalised, and the least empowered of all the four research populations since their traditional professions were significantly affected by the pandemic.
Garment workers also suffered from a lack of income and jobs, at least during the early stages of the pandemic, as they were often not covered by government incentives.
Kailash Rabidas, joint organising secretary, Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM), said, the Dalit communities live in very compact spaces so they have faced significantly more risk of contracting the virus.
Highlighting the woes of tea garden workers, Tamanna Singh, leader of the Dalit Women's Forum, said Covid-19 further deepened the existing inequality the group goes through regularly.
Zakir Hossain, chief executive of Nagorik Uddyog, a human rights and development organisation, who took part in the discussion, said, "Did civil society extend their helping hand to these disadvantaged groups during the pandemic? I do not think I have encountered any such incident."
He urged disadvantaged groups to be more aware of their rights and to mobilise against the existing disparity to create a civic space for themselves.
Pankaj Kumar, country director of Christian Aid Bangladesh, also spoke at Wednesday's event, conducted by Nuzhat Jabin, programme manager of the organisation.