The ongoing lockdown, put in force in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19 infections in the country, has led to income losses among low-income people in the capital.
Even though the livelihood crisis has not become that much obvious so far, the marginalised sections of society are fearful that the situation might turn severe if the lockdown is prolonged.
Zahirul Islam – an youth who has to run his family at this young age – was found in an alley of Korail slum in the capital. Earlier, he used to bear the expenses of his family by selling nuts on footpaths.
But, as he cannot go out to sell nuts amid the lockdown, he now sells Chia seeds and Isabgol sitting at the mouth of the narrow passage of the slum. His income has now reduced to less than half of what he used to earn before.
"Gradual income losses have pushed me against the wall. I can somehow manage rice and pulses with the money I earn. For this, I have had to change my business. Yet, I am better than many others around.
"Many have no income. We are not getting any assistance either. If this situation is prolonged, our livelihoods will be in peril. Maybe, we'll have to return to the village. Or else, we'll have to borrow money to survive."
Walking inside the slum, these correspondents met a family. Two brothers are drivers by profession. Their father once held a small government job. One of the two brothers lost his job at the beginning of this lockdown, while the other is not getting paid.
Asked how the family is running, elder brother Jewel Sikder said, "We manage to buy food and clothes with the money we receive from our father's pension. I don't have a job so I don't have any expenses."
He said he would look for a new job once the lockdown is relaxed.
Younger brother Salahuddin Ahmed who was standing nearby said, "I still have a job. However, my employers have no income. So, they said they would not pay me now.
"You can say I do not have a job unless the situation improves. So, both the brothers are currently unemployed."
Physical distancing or health guidelines are barely maintained in the slum.
In response to a question about whether anyone in the slum has been infected with the coronavirus, Salauddin said, "I haven't heard from anyone living in 100 houses around us that they even suffered from a cold or cough in the last one month."
He further claimed that people living in the slum are less prone to diseases.
The more we walked inside the slum, the more it became obvious to us that people there were less worried about the coronavirus. They were much more anxious about food and sustaining their lives.
Swapan Rishi works as a shoe polisher in the gap of roadside shops. He did not get any work since morning. In the meantime, his wife Manu Rishi was sitting there to take money from him to buy everyday essentials.
The gist of the conversation between the two of them is that there is hardly any income now. Once Swapan could earn even Tk1,000 a day, but now it is difficult to earn Tk22.
If they do not get assistance from the government or from any other sources after one week, their family is feared to go hungry. The family could not yet come out of the debt trap they fell into last year.
On the way back from Korail slum to Mohakhali Amtali by rickshaw, we talked to rickshaw puller Antar Miah.
Twelve-year-old Antar is a class 5 student. He cannot afford to attend his classes, as the classes are being conducted online, he said, adding he has been pulling a rickshaw since last year.
"My mother used to work as a sweeper at an office in Gulshan. She has lost her job. My father is dead. So, now I pull a rickshaw to run my family."
Now let's look at a slum in the capital's Kalyanpur.
Ranu Begum has been living in Nayabazar slum there for more than 10 years. She has a family of six members and is finding it difficult to run the family on the income of her husband alone.
She said her mason husband does not get work every day.
"Before the coronavirus outbreak, I used to cook in a house. But they have terminated me. Now our family is dependent on my husband's income only."
With her eyes full of tears, Ranu Begum said their hometown was Bhola. "Our home was engulfed by river seven times. We can't even go home. How will we survive? There is no way that we can go to anyone seeking government assistance to survive. Assistance is given by looking at the face."
Swapna Begum has been working with a social organisation for 23 years to improve the living standards of women in the Kalyanpur slum.
She said about half of the 8,000 women living in the slum are sitting at home losing their jobs due to the coronavirus.
Some 2,966 families live in the Kalyanpur slum. The total population is more than 13,000.
Social organisation CBO Committee has been working for the development of Kalyanpur slum dwellers.
Hannan Akand, general secretary of the committee, said the women who live here either work as garment workers or at others' homes. And the men are day labourers.
Women who used to work as housemaids cannot go to work due to the coronavirus, he mentioned. "Last time, the government provided some assistance. Assistance was received from some NGOs as well. But this time no assistance has been provided yet."
Hannan Akand said each house in the slum is 10-square-feet. "With four to five people living in each house, how can they move here keeping social distance?" he said.
However, there are no corona patients in this slum, he added.
Sayema Haque Bidisha, professor of economics at Dhaka University, said the situation had turned so grave that other than lockdown there was no way out of the current situation.
"Now there is no way but to implement a strict lockdown. It will take more time to control the infection. In the long run, ordinary people will become unemployed.
"And this situation will create anxiety among them. With a rather strict lockdown, the infection will come under control quickly. People will get rid of confinement to home. Everyone will be able to return to work."
But in times of the strict restrictions, steps must be taken to ensure at two meals a day to those who live from hand to mouth, she said.
"Cash and food aid should be made visible, otherwise they will come out on the streets."