• Sunday, Jun 04, 2023
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Hungry, tired of waiting for aid, people take to the streets

Hundreds of unemployed labourers block Dhaka-Narayanganj road demanding relief in Narayanganj Sadar upazila on Saturday, April 18, 2020 Dhaka Tribune

To alleviate the situation, the government has been allocating food supplies and other relief items for people in need across the country

The government-imposed countrywide shutdown to stem community transmission of coronavirus has been affecting  people in lower income groups as they fail to fend for themselves and their families without available jobs.

To alleviate the situation, the government has been allocating food supplies and other relief items for people in need across the country. However, in light of recent media reports, one can safely say that corruption in the distribution chains has been frustrating the government’s timely initiative.   

As a result, poor and unemployed people and suffering from hunger have been taking to the streets to protest the irregularities.

In Chittagong city, one such incident reportedly took place yesterday, where a group of locals stopped a pick-up van carrying food supplies meant for distribution, and emptied it of everything.

However, Halishahar police station OC Rafiqul Islam could not confirm the incident as a complaint was yet to be filed regarding the looting that took place in his area.

Regardless, this may be the onset of desperation which may soon be hitting a lot of underprivileged people, who happen to constitute the majority of the population in the country.

Meanwhile, people continued to protest for food supplies, as three separate demonstrations were reported from Rangpur, Narayanganj, and Chittagong yesterday. 

In Rangpur, traffic came to a standstill for hours as hundreds of unemployed labourers, gripped by fear of perishing without food, took to the streets for relief supplies in Sadar and Paikgachha upazila.

Salma Begum, from Deuti village in Pirgachha, said: “You tell us to stay home but without food. How will we survive with our children and families? How long do we have to starve like this.”

Other protesters also expressed the same sentiments as they observed a sit-in demonstration. 

In Sadar upazila, protesters blocked the Rangpur-Kurigram-Lalmonirhat road in Saroatal area of Rangpur town. Vehicle movement remained suspended for about two hours from 10am during the protest.

The protesters of ward no 33 in the city said that they had been without jobs for almost a month now. They also said they were yet to receive any food supplies from the government and had been starving with their families.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people demonstrated for food near the Deuti market area form 9am in Paikgachha upazila.

The strike was called off after law enforcement assured protesters of meeting their demands which includes food supplies from the government and availability of TCB (Trading Corporation of Bangladesh) products in the district.

Mahiganj police station OC Akhtaruzzaman said necessary measures would be taken to supply emergency food in the area and the situation is now under control.

In Narayanganj, hundreds of unemployed labourers from Kutubpur union in Sadar upazila blocked the Dhaka-Narayanganj Highway demanding relief.

Protesters said they were sustaining themselves with great difficulties, often starving as none had come to their aid amid the ongoing shutdown to stem the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

The protest was called off after they were assured that food support would be provided to them, confirmed Fatullah Model police station OC Aslam Hossain. 

Sources from Kutubpur union parishad said as many as 259,262 people live in 29 villages of Kutubpur union. 

Kutubpur Union Parishad Chairman Md Monirul Alam Sentu said: “We were able to provide relief to 6000 families and can deliver more to 1,500 families within tomorrow. Among 80,000 families, who are facing a crisis of food in the union, 30,000 families were enlisted for relief issuance. But if sufficient supplies don’t reach us from the government, we have nothing to do.”

In Chittagong city, the workers of an RMG factory took to the streets demanding outstanding wages while the CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers demonstrated demanding relief goods.

Several hundred workers of Frank Garments Ltd staged a demonstration at the Badamtali intersection of Agrabad area under Double Mooring police station in the city in the morning.

The agitating apparel workers complained that they were compelled to protest as their wages for March remained outstanding.

On getting information, police rushed to the spot to calm the agitating apparel workers.   

Sadip Kumar Das, officer-in-charge of Double Mooring police station, told Dhaka Tribune that factory authorities had assured the workers they would get paid by April 28.

Meanwhile, several hundred CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers also staged demonstrations at the Boropool area under Halishahar police station in the city, according to the police.

Roads were closed for an hour from 11:00am as the demonstrators put up a blockade which caused severe traffic congestion.

The CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers said they were struggling to make ends meet because of the shutdown in the city.

Rafiqul Islam, Officer-in-Charge of Halishahar police station told Dhaka Tribune that some CNG drivers took to the streets and blocked the road for some time, demanding relief goods.