Low-income people leaving Dhaka
An estimated 50,000 people in the low-income bracket left the capital for their ancestral homes as the novel coronavirus pandemic has robbed them of their jobs
A to-let sign was hanging on a tin-shed shanty at Bagichartek slum, adjacent to Hatirjheel area of the capital. Locals said the former tenant, who had three family members, recently went to their village home as he failed to finance his livelihood in the city.
The man used to run a tea stall. The virus-led shutdown shuttered the shop, pushing his family to the verge of starvation. At last, they packed their belongings and headed back to their ancestral home.
Like this family, people who are planning to leave the capital said house rent is the main challenge in Dhaka. On top of this, essentials are pricier here which puts the squeeze on the low-income group who became jobless due to the pandemic.
In the meantime, people who managed to save their jobs with pay-cuts have sent their families to the villages. The single jobholders have left the family apartments and shifted to shared flats.
Abdur Rouf used to work for a private firm which closed its operations followed by the virus fallout.
He came to Dhaka after completing his higher secondary certificate exam. His stay in the capital amounted to 15 years including the university and professional life.
"It is painful to leave the city. However, I am leaving as there are no alternatives," he said.
"I know there will be no living in my village too. However, I will not have to starve if I stay with my family there. There will be at least three meals a day," Rouf added.
Shakhawat Hossain works for an advertising company which has allowed him to work from home during the pandemic. However, he has been getting 50 percent of his salary for the last two months. To make ends meet, Shakhawat sent his wife and children to Noakhali and moved to a sublet apartment.
"I will bring the family back once the situation normalises. With the current salary, it is impossible to support the family in Dhaka," he told The Business Standard.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the population of Dhaka was 68 lakh in 1991. From then, the city population kept surging to 2019. The UN World Urbanization Prospectus 2018 said Dhaka's population surpassed 1.70 crore.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), last April, reported the virus could wipe out 19 crore jobs across the world this year. The ILO estimated that the Asia-Pacific region would see the greatest loss in work hours.
In the same month, Dhaka-based Policy Research Institute estimated that at least 1.5 crore people had lost jobs in the pandemic as of last April.
According to a joint survey conducted by BRAC, DataSense and Unnayan Shamannay, the pandemic has put 10.22 crore people at financial and economic risk. Among the surveyed, 34 percent family said at least one of the family members has lost their job.
Meanwhile, 74 percent of families witnessed a fall in their income while 14 lakh expatriate workers are returning home after losing their livelihoods.
According to the survey findings, the virus robbed at least 22 lakh factory jobs from mid-March to April.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association said that at least nine lakh people who used to process and cater food, mostly in Dhaka, are on without pay leave.
"The novel coronavirus fallout may wipe out the jobs as the restaurant business shows no sign of regaining momentum," says Khondoker Ruhul Amin, president of the association.
Bahraine Sultan Bahar, president of Bharatia Parishad, told the media that more than 50,000 tenants have already left the capital and more virus-hit people plan to follow the lead.
"While leaving, many tenants sold the furniture at a throwaway price to clear the house rents. The landlords are pressuring them for the three-month dues," he claimed.