Despite only three days remaining before the Eid-ul-Adha, sacrificial animal markets throughout Dhaka continue to witness a low customer turnout.
Markets across the capital are mostly crowded with cattle owners, traders and a small number of customers. However, many of them did not seem to be very interested in maintaining social distancing measures, or any other health safety guidelines against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Every year, both Dhaka North and South city corporations set up more than 20 makeshift cattle markets around the city ahead of Eid-ul-Adha.
This year, they have decided to scale the number down to only 16, excluding the permanent market in Gabtoli, as safety has become a big issue amid the ongoing coronavirus situation.
Visiting one of the Eid cattle markets on Tuesday noon, situated on the Hazaribagh Leather Technology College field under Dhaka South, The Business Standard found that only a few customers were visiting the market and that it was crowded mostly with the cattle owners.
Most of them were not wearing masks. A group of traders were seen sitting next to their cattle without maintaining any social distancing measures, though authorities were making announcements on loudspeakers addressing the issue every five minutes.
When asked why they are not wearing any masks, they said, "We all have our masks in our pockets. Actually, we have just taken our baths. So, we do not feel like wearing masks."
They then instantly took out their masks from their pockets and wore them.
One of the cattle traders, Md Dablu Mollah said, "It is tough to maintain hygiene in a cattle market as we are taking care of our cows all day long. Using sanitisers after feeding or touching our cows cannot be an option.
"Organisers have set up basins to wash our hands frequently, and we are trying to maintain that."
The Business Standard observed the washbasin at the market for some time, but not even one person was seen washing their hands.
Speaking about the sacrificial animal trade, Mollah said, "Currently, not so many customers are visiting the market. We are hoping that from Thursday, there will be a huge crowd here. It will be tougher to maintain social distancing measures during that time."
One of the volunteers in the market, Md Akash, said, "We are trying our best to ensure social distancing measures among people inside the market. Cattle owners and cattle are being sanitised by spraying disinfectants while entering and leaving the market."
Meanwhile, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam visited the cattle market of Sayed Nagar in Vatara on Tuesday noon. After inspection, he told the journalists that a monitoring team has been formed with ward councilors to inspect the cattle markets.
The mayor added, "The team is visiting every market to monitor whether the hygiene rules are being followed. Leaseholders have also come up with masks so that they can distribute those among the people who do not have them.
"The measures are very difficult to maintain, but we are still trying. The elderly, children and sick people have been advised not to come to the markets."
Atiqul Islam also revealed that mobile courts have been set up in each cattle market under the Dhaka North City Corporation to ensure hygiene rules.
Sellers demanding higher prices
Several customers claimed that cattle traders are demanding steep prices for sacrificial animals.
One of the customers, found roaming the market, said traders are asking too much price, which is unreasonable for cattle of such size. The sellers are not doing justice to the customers.
Meanwhile, Md Rasel, a cattle owner from Kushtia who came to the market with 18 cows, said, "Profits and losses, both are part of the business. I have already sold two of my cows. Cattle are usually not sold at a fixed price; bargaining is the normal trend in this business."
Another trader, on condition of anonymity, said their asking price for an animal is Tk10,000-15,000 higher to balance out the customers' bargaining process.