Hit hard by shutdown, auto-rickshaw drivers seek govt help
Publish- April 14, 2020, 04:44 PM
Sadrul Hasan - UNB Staff Writer
Update- April 14, 2020, 05:02 PM
Drivers of CNG-run auto-rickshaws are passing their days amid great miseries as they have been left without work amid the nationwide shutdown aimed at curbing the coronavirus.
Under the current situation, they sought government support for their survival.
Like other vehicles, three-wheelers also remain off the streets after the government shut all modes of communications across the country from March 26 alongside public holidays and closure of educational institutions in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Usually, auto-rickshaw drivers earn money on a daily basis to run their families and as they have no work currently, they have no income, too, putting them as well as their families in serious trouble.
Normally, an auto-rickshaw driver earns about Tk 500 a day after meeting his running expenses, including deposit to auto-rickshaw owner for the vehicle.
“We used to earn on a daily basis. But I’ve no income since the communications shutdown began on March 26 as I can’t take my auto-rickshaw to streets,” Julhas, a three-wheeler driver living in the city’s Mohammadpur Beribadh area, told UNB.
He said he has no money to spend to buy food and other essentials for his family.
Julhas said he has been living in a rented house in the area with four members of his family, including wife and two children. “If the lockdown is not withdrawn, we won’t be able to earn money to pay the house rent. Then the landlord will serve notice to vacate the house,” he said.
The similar story was shared by Ibrahim, another auto-rickshaw driver who lives in Mirpur-13.
He said he has been trying to contact local councillor of Dhaka North City Corporation to get some relief since the general holidays started. “But I failed to meet the councillor. Now, I’ve been running my family taking loan from a relative,” he said.
“I don’t know how long I can survive if the current situation persists for long,” Ibrahim further said in a frustrating note.
Leaders of Bangladesh Auto-rickshaw-Autotempo Transport Workers Federation (BAATWF), which represents three-wheeler drivers, said there are around 5 lakh drivers having valid driving licences across the country.
“The condition of all of us is almost the same. We don’t have money to run our daily life,” Golam Faruque, general secretary of the BAATWF, told UNB.
He said there are some 15,000 CNG auto-rickshaw drivers in Dhaka city while over 30,000 in Chattogram city.
As a BAATWF leader, Faruque said, he has contacted offices of deputy commissioners (DCs) of Dhaka and Chattogram for relief and financial assistance declared by the government under economic stimulus packages.
But both the DCs have informed them that if any relief or financial assistance is allocated for Dhaka and Chattogram cities, it will be distributed through city corporations and ward councillors, he said.
Faruque, however, said some of the DCs in other districts are responding to the request of their organisation.
“But they suggested that our district-level leaders contact UNOs and local union parishad chairmen for the relief,” he said, adding that they asked drivers to submit the lists of their names to them.
Appreciating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for announcing the stimulus packages of Tk 72,750 crore to revive the economy, the BAATWF leader said if this amount is distributed among all the citizens, everyone will get Tk 4,041.
“If this fund is distributed properly through honest persons and good mechanism, no-one will be left behind,” he said demanding Tk 15,000 for every auto-rickshaw driver as support to survive in the current situation.
This can be done easily as all the drivers have registered driving licences. “The government can use BRTA data to help them at this difficult time,” Faruque said.
Meanwhile, BAATWF submitted a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday last seeking special allocation for all drivers and other workers engaged in his sector.