Sixty-two percent of indigenous people living in plains across Bangladesh have fallen below the poverty line due to the Covid-19 pandemic, revealed a survey conducted by the Indigenous People Development Services (IPDS).
The survey results, released by the IPDS at a virtual conference on Thursday, further stated that incomes of 92 percent indigenous people have dropped steeply after many of them lost their jobs.
There are 30 lakh indigenous people in the country and 20 lakh among them live in the plains. The IPDS has recently conducted the survey among 1,203 families from 35 minority groups in 28 districts.
Sanjeeb Drong, founder president of the organisation, read out the keynote paper at the online conference.
"Seventy-two percent of the indigenous people have lost their jobs. Most of them were working in shopping malls, beauty parlours, part-time at many national and international organisations, and as labourers. They are facing a severe financial crisis," Sanjeeb said.
Sarah Marandy, social development director at Gram Bikash Kendra, said, "The indigenous people are facing a shortage of food, causing them to suffer from malnutrition. The government should take immediate steps to save their lives."
Zakir Hossain of Nagorik Uddyog said, "The indigenous people took out loans with high interest rates and sold their crops in advance. They will face severe issues within the next few months. The already poor will become even poorer."
At the event, the IPDS pressed home a number of demands such as announcing a special financial stimulus package for the indigenous people, making a database for them and allocating special financial support as loans and donations for indigenous businessmen.
The organisation further demanded that jobs be given to 10,000-20,000 indigenous youths so that they can bear family expenses, and that the indigenous people be brought under social safety net programmes.
The IPDS also demanded that they be included in the list of people receiving Tk2,500 from the government in cash assistance amid the Covid-19 pandemic, that a separate ministry be formed for the indigenous people living in the plains and that a "National Indigenous Policy" be made.