Sunday, October 5, 2008

Eid days of hapless people go untouched in Rajshahi

"I couldn't even try to realise how and when the Eid days had passed", said rickshaw puller Ariful Islam as he was sitting idle on his rickshaw near a tea stall at Kumarpara in the city with a shadow of gloom on his face yesterday afternoon.

He usually rushes to the city from Malanchi in Natore by train at dawn for earning his livelihood by pulling a rickshaw on rent and he could hardly manage a square meal for his family on the day by Tk 175 he earned on the day before.

"I couldn't go for work in the city as all transports were off the road on the Eid day. I went to my home with Tk 150 on the second day. But today, I counted so far only Tk 40, Tk 5 more than the rent of the rickshaw."

The 28-year-old unmarried Arif, who has to look after his parents, broke down in tears when asked about his Eid. He said he could not manage new dresses for none of his family members, as he could not work for some 15 days before the holy festival due to his illness.

The situation was different even two or three years ago when he used to pull a rickshaw van at Natore alongside tilling a small piece of their land. He was forced to rush to the city for earning extra money following price hike of essentials.

Arif was not the lone hero of this harrowing tale. Roaming around the city, this correspondent found a plenty of examples of poverty-stricken food-insecure people like Soleman, Shahid, Kamal and Babul who were out of the charm of Eid festivity.

They were from in and around the city and from distant northern districts. The spectre of their poverty was stemmed from the rise of cost of living and fresh spike in essential prices.

Crises of job and food have overshadowed Eid celebration of the underprivileged hundreds, many of whom are still flocking to the city for either doing jobs or begging alms.

During this period, the poor people of the northern region usually suffer from monga, a near-famine situation, following lack of agricultural work and food sufficiency.

The situation is likely to persist till the harvest in December, said the government officials, adding that the situation has, however, improved a bit following various government measures.

Day labourer Kamruzzaman of Baya managed to buy new clothing for his one son among the two during the festival.

"I bought him a shirt with Tk 220 and a sandal at Tk 130 and sent the other son to his grandmother's house for his clothing… We (the couple) did not buy anything for ourselves… I hope we would do it in the next Eid when there will be enough work at croplands."

"Eid was great even three years before when I was able to afford new clothing for all of my five-member family… But I could not even manage a dainty dish, let alone clothing this year. I have never passed any Eid like this time without having meat," 55-year-old day labourer Moser Mondol described his plight in the way.

"I bought some sugar and milk for cooking semai (vermicelli) borrowing money from a neighbour… My neighbour also gave me his old punjabi and lungi to say Eid prayers," said Moser of Panchabati area.

Soleman, an octogenarian, came to visit his eldest son's house at Panchabati from Ramjibanpur at Puthia upazila in the morning and was returning home in the noon. "There is none but Allah to look after us. I came to visit my son and I am returning now as he is not able to give me anything."

This correspondent met Shiplu, a firewood trader on the Padma river dam at Sashanghat point. He was passing idly sitting on a bamboo-mancha. He was careless about sharing his Eid experience.

"I bought new clothing for my two minor sisters, but could not buy for myself or my parents. I went to markets thrice for buying clothing for us, but returned witnessing the exorbitant prices."

Halima, wife of a rickshaw puller, was lamenting on the Padma dam as the rickshaw of her husband, who was suffering from fever for last 20 days, was stolen on the Eid day, saying, "We starved on the day as my husband was unable to earn."

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