Street vendors are now passing a hard time to earn their livelihood because of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic which has already upended public life.
After the outbreak of the fatal disease in the country, most vendors have stood idle as their items remain unsold.The scenario came to notice when this correspondent visited some city points where street vendors thronged once to sell their items.
“We’re lying idle as people don’t want to buy anything from us due to coronavirus,” said vendor Abu Jahir.
Jahir, who sells peanuts, chanachur and pickles, has earned Tk 300 to Tk 350 daily in the last couple of days, whereas his income was Tk 1200 to Tk 1500 earlier.
Amid the pandemic, a significant number of people have stopped going outside their houses except for emergency necessities.
Many bound to go outside for different reasons don’t take street foods and other items as these may increase their risk of getting infected with the virus.
Floating traders, who sell food items like peanuts, chanachur, pickles, puffed rice, sliced fruits, fruit drinks, bhelpuris, phuchkas, tea, cigarettes, and other items including flowers, books, almanac, beauty accessories and toys, are going through a terrible time.With a pale face, Jahir said, “Coronavirus has upended my business and life. Even after taking a risk of getting exposed to the virus, I cannot earn enough to bear my essential expenses.”
“Now I can’t return to village as a river has eaten into my house and I’m seeing a gloomy future ahead.”
Tajul Islam, who once sold bhelpuri and phuchka, now sells face masks, face shields, plastic goggles, hand sanitizers, hand gloves etc. at Mirpur 10 intersection.
He told, “Never before I faced such a situation. People are scared into taking street foods. Thus, I have changed my business. But I cannot earn much as so many traders are selling personal protective equipment in the same area.”
Before the pandemic spread its paw, hanging a small box on her shoulder Jharna Begum used to sell cigarette, chocolate and chewing gums in Banani area.
Her full-day sales now total Tk 800 to Tk 1000, one-third of his regular turnover of Tk 2500 to 3000.
She said, “It is not that smokers have quit smoking. But they are buying cigarettes in packs to avoid risks. As a result, my sale has reduced. I have to support my 6-member family with what I earn. I don’t know how I would be able to stand beside my family amid the slumping sales.”
It is very difficult to give an accurate statistics for the street vendors of Dhaka city since there is a lack of their official data.
According to Kamal Siddiki, president of Bangladesh Chinnomul Hawkers Samity, the number of vendors is not less than 500,000.
Being incapable of renting shops and investing adequate money, floating traders face many difficulties to run their business. They do not always make much profit. So, they don’t have much savings. During this traumatic time, plight of these low-income people know no bounds.
Many of them have returned to villages and some are changing their professions. They hardly received any assistance from the government or non-government organisations.
Kazi Reazul Hoque, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), observed, “Bangladesh, as a signatory country of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is committed that no one will be left behind. The state has responsibility towards its every citizen. The state services should be reached to the underprivileged section of the society.”
The programmes that the government has taken to assist people during the coronavirus crisis may not be adequate to cover all. But they have every right to get it, he added.