Ramiz Uddin had become jobless during last year’s shutdown. To carry on with his life, he had taken Tk 2 lakh loan from a bank and invested the money in coconut business.
He now sells coconuts at an entrance of Suhrawardy Udyan and keeps an amount of his profit aside to pay the loan back in instalments.
However, after the weeklong lockdown started, he was found sitting idle with his coconuts. “I didn’t stop selling coconuts, but there’s no buyer,” said Ramiz out of frustration.
The lockdown is exasperating the already dire situation of many small vendors of Dhaka University (DU) campus like Ramiz, who took loans last year to survive the Covid-19 outbreak.
They fear that this time, the lockdown would drag them to the streets.
Although DU’s academic activities have not resumed yet, students and visitors used to go to DU campus every day, which boosted sales for vendors.
On Sunday, the government imposed a seven-day restriction on public movement to curb the infection of Covid-19. Following that, DU authority restricted entrance of outsiders. As a result, the whole campus became vacant.
This correspondent talked with about 15 vendors, who described their miseries.
Kobita Begum used to sell colourful glass bangles at DU. Though meagre, her income was enough to ensure meals for her children. But after the restrictions were set, Kobita lost her only means of livelihood.
“My family depends on my income. I don’t know how I’ll run the expenses,” said Kobita, a widow, adding that after bearing daily expenses, no money is left to save.
Vendors like Kobita, who earn their living by selling ornaments, tea, cigarettes, seasonal fruits and snacks at TSC area of DU, are bearing the brunt of the restrictions.
Not only vendors but floating people of the campus are also passing hard times.
Monsur Hasan, who passes his nights under the passenger shades of bus stops at the university campus, used to live on alms.
“A tea vendor gave me a bread yesterday [Monday] afternoon at [Dhaka] medical area. I’ve not gotten anything to eat today [Tuesday],” he said.
Last year, Tanbir Hasan Shaikat, a former member of Dhaka University Central Students Union (Ducsu) arranged food for floating and low-income people on campus.
Contacted, he said the scenario is different this year. “Chhatra League has prepared to provide Iftar, masks and sanitiser during Ramadan,” he said.
Chhatra Union Central Committee President Foyez Ullah said the government has suddenly declared restriction without ensuring food for the poor. “We demand food and proper treatment of the poor,” he added.