They said that the law enforcers bar them from opening their makeshift shop due to the lockdown

The ongoing strict lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 across the country has effectively left street hawkers without an income.

Talking to several vendors, they said that the law enforcers bar them from opening their makeshift shop due to the lockdown, while lack of customers is another reason why they are in dire straits.

Shahab Uddin, who used to sell cigarettes, tea-coffee and paan (betel leaf) around the New Market area, has been severely affected.

“When the market remains open, I make a small income each day, which I have been doing for eight years now. Most of the shop traders and floating hawkers were my regular customers,” he recalled.

“I used to earn Tk1,000-1,200 per day, now I’m living my life on savings. After the government shut down the markets amid the lockdown, there is no income for people like us.”

Except for law enforcers and rickshaw pullers, there is literally no one in the area, he added.

According to a joint research by the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, Brac and UN Women Bangladesh study, the months between April and October of 2020 saw roughly 77% of households in Bangladesh lose a proportion of their average monthly income, with approximately 34% having at least one member lose their job.

Another vendor, Mohon Karmakar, said: “I had three vans which sold kitchen appliances inside New Market. Now that the market has been closed since Eid, I granted leave to my employees.”

Citing lack of interest in going digital, he said: “I can use a smartphone but I cannot conduct business online, which is why I am suffering.”

“Since last year’s lockdown, life has become difficult. My four-member family and my three employees were dependent on our trade. But now we have zero income and zero savings to make it through the lockdown,” he added.

Talking about his employees, he said: “They earned Tk500 per day, I had nearly Tk2,500-3,000 per day.”

Hossen Ali, a floating hawker selling smartphone accessories in the New Market, Shahbagh, and Bashundhara City areas, said: “The lockdown has taken away our livelihoods. I used to sell 20-30 pieces of earphones, memory cards, back covers and chargers. My earning was nearly Tk500-600. But now I have nothing to do, nor can I earn,” he added.

“Lockdown has been harsh on us, as we do not have any permanent establishment,” said Siddiqur Rahman, a roadside hawker selling chairs and wooden appliances.

“If I sell a product, it will bring food to the table, it is that simple.
My family and I are living a nightmare now. The government should withdraw the lockdown and allow us to operate business adhering to strict health guidelines,” he pleaded.

According to a report of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), the Covid-19 outbreak in March last year forced expenses to shoot up in the capital, like every other country, resulting in the cost of living going up by 6.88%, the highest in the last three years.This increase was 6.50% and 6.08% respectively in 2019, and 6.0% and 5.19% respectively in 2018.

The report also said that inflation went up by 6.31%.

According to Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) survey, the number of the “new poor” in Bangladesh stood at 24.5 million, or 14.7% of total population, in March due to fallout of Covid-19 pandemic, a latest survey says.

The study estimated that the new poor constituted 21.2% of the total population in June last year, now they constitute 14.7%, still a large percentage.

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