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Lockdown hardship hits Dhaka’s rickshaw pullers again

  • Published at 06:42 pm July 4th, 2021
Rickshaw and van pullers are finding it difficult to earn their daily bread as Dhaka streets remain mostly empty on the third day of the nationwide hard lockdown on Saturday, July 3, 2021 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The heavy rain which has gripped the city has also drastically cut down the number of passengers

On the first day of the strict lockdown, rickshaw fares soared through the roof across Dhaka as these three-wheelers were the only mode of public transport available in the capital.

From office goers to apparel factory workers, many complained about fares being 10 times more than the usual amount.

But as law enforcement started detaining and fining people for venturing outside for no good reason, the public transport monopoly quickly broke down, leaving rickshaw pullers with little choice but to reduce the fares again.  

Also read - ‘No passengers on my rickshaw, no food on my table’

And the heavy rain which has gripped the city has also drastically cut down the number of passengers.

On Sunday, the Dhaka Tribune found rickshaw pullers in the Azimpur, New Market, Dhanmondi, Shyamoli, Kallyanpur, and Mirpur areas waiting for hours to get even a single passenger.

At the Palashi intersection, rickshaw puller Bachchu Mia said: “Our earnings have dropped drastically as the government and private offices are closed. Before the lockdown, earnings were Tk900-1,200 pe day, now it is down to Tk130-300.”

Asked if the first day of the lockdown had been lucrative for him, Bachchu shook his head.

“I heard some rickshaw pullers were able to charge very high fares on the first day, but I have had no such luck,” he added.

Another rickshaw puller Afzal Hossain in the Mirpur area said on Wednesday — just the day before lockdown — he had earned Tk1,570. 

“Now at 4pm, I have earned only Tk280. And I have to pay Tk110 per day to the owner of the rickshaw.”

Those who want to go to hospitals or get out for emergencies are using bicycles, ambulances or personal vehicles, he added.

Jalal Molla, a rickshaw puller in Shyamoli said that due to the heavy rain for the past few days, only a few people have ventured out of their homes.

“I used to earn Tk800-1,000 per day before the strict lockdown. Since the lockdown began, my earnings have barely reached Tk200 per day,” he added.

But passengers complain that fares are still high, although less so than on the first day of the lockdown.

While heading to a nearby hospital, Saikot Hossain, a passenger at Science Laboratory intersection, said rickshaws are charging more than regular.

“If you ask them to take you from New Market to Dhanmondi Satmasjid road, they are asking for Tk80, whereas the usual fare is Tk25-30!” he said.

Md Noor Uddin Yousuf, another passenger, said: “There is no traffic jam, no hassle. But rickshaw pullers are charging as much as they like because there is no other mode of transport in this lockdown.”

Also read - Dhaka turns into a ghost town on rainy second day of lockdown

There are around 1.1 million rickshaws in more than 5,000 garages with 2.2 million rickshaw pullers working in Dhaka, found a report titled "A Study of Rickshaw Pullers in Dhaka City" published in March 2019 by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS).

Amirul Haque Amin, a member of the BILS Advisory Council, told Dhaka Tribune in April that rickshaw owners are in trouble and their income is dwindling every day.

“If a rickshaw puller earns Tk100-200 per day amid the lockdown, how is he supposed to buy food for his family? The government, NGOs, and social welfare groups must pay special attention and arrange cash assistance for these people,” he further said.

During the lockdown last year, the income of rickshaw pullers in the capital had dropped by 50.3%, according to a survey by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC).