The capital’s poor are reducing their food consumption, in addition to other essential expenses, to cope with soaring commodity prices.
Some have stopped educating their children as they need more paid members to survive on limited income amid the hardships they started going through since the Covid pandemic hit.
Those earning between Tk 5,500 and 16,000 per month said they were in a precarious situation due to soaring essential prices.
They said they had to compromise on the quantity and quality of their food intake.
A 55-year-old security guard, Jahangir Peda, working in the capital’s Dhanmondi district as an employee of the general security services, said he started eating rice once a day due to the rise in commodity prices.
“I earn 10,000 Tk per month. I have to send 6000 Tk to my family of five in Pirojpur. Although I do not need to pay rent as I live in the building where I am assigned, the soaring prices of all food items, especially rice, oil, lentils and vegetables, forced me to take rice once a day,” he said. .
He went on to say, “I have my breakfast with tea and biscuits and dinner with bread. I haven’t eaten beef and chicken in the last three months. If I take rice three times a day, my family in the village house will starve.
Earlier, he mentioned, he used to get Tk 4,000-5,000 in tips every month, but now it has dropped to Tk 400-500 per month for about a year.
Tahmina, a textile worker at AB Choice’s Mirpur-6 factory in Dhaka, earns a living with her monthly salary of Tk5,500. She has to support a family of four, including her sick husband and two daughters.
“My husband used to be a rickshaw puller but is now home due to illness. I have to pay Tk 2500 as rent for a house in Rupnagar slum in Mirpur. It becomes so difficult to manage my family with such an income,” said Tahmina, from Barguna.
She said her daughter had been unable to take the secondary school certificate exam due to financial difficulties since the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.
“I ate beef in the past Eid ul-Azha for the last time,” she said.
She said they were living a miserable life due to the rising prices of all essential items.
Rafiqul Islam, a laborer, is now working in a building under construction at Dhaka Udyan Housing in the capital’s Mohammadpur district on Saturday.
He said he could earn Tk 15,000-16,000 every month if he works without any days off.
“We low-income people are going through a tough time. The prices of all raw materials have skyrocketed, but not our income. I have a family of six and I pay Tk 4,000 in rent,” he added.
He disclosed that he took a loan of Tk 1,40,000 from a microcredit organization and had to pay Tk 3,600 every week as a deposit.
“My daughter dropped out of school about nine months ago when she was in ninth grade and joined a garment factory to support the family,” he said, adding that he was working seven days a week to survive.
Rafiqul said they were in shock over the rising prices.
Rizzat Ali, a rickshaw puller living in a slum in Mirpur-6 Ta Block, said he could not buy fish, chicken let alone beef with what he earned.
“My monthly income varies between 12,000 Tk and 15,000 Tk. From this amount, I have to send Tk 7,000 to Tk 8,000 to my family of two sons, two daughters and a wife in the village,” he added.
He has to pay Tk 1,500 as seat rental in a mess per month, he revealed, asking how he could take nutritious food with the amount of money he had left.
“I had to entrust my son to a workshop. He was in sixth grade at a Chhatak upazila madrasa in Sunamganj district,” he said.
He has two daughters aged six and four, he added, saying he cannot provide them with food such as meat, eggs and milk for several days.
Experts feared that compromising food intake would increase malnutrition and negatively impact many future generations in terms of reproductive efficiency and health.
Anu Muhammad, professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, said the government should take initiatives to guarantee a minimum of food for the poor by creating job opportunities and social security systems like in other countries. .
“Compromising on the quantity and quality of food consumption will result in poor reproductive health of future generations, their malnutrition and reduce their work efficiency,” he added.
He also said many would drop out of school to work because there was little social security.
Bangladesh Consumers Association Chairman Ghulam Rahman said people were cutting food items, before which they had already cut entertainment, education, health, clothing and housing.
“I urge the government to take in the urban poor under social safety net programs like those in the countryside,” he added.
He said the government should raise the minimum wage and control spiraling commodity prices to relieve low-income groups.
“If the current situation continues, it will increase crimes, social anomalies and injustice in society,” he predicted.
Md Saidul Arefin, Professor at the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Dhaka, said: “If we cannot take adequate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, it will create short-term effects. and in the long term on our health.”
He said people would lose efficiency and growth in the days to come.
The continued rise in commodity prices has dealt a heavy blow to people on fixed and low incomes since the Covid outbreak, as many people have lost their income due to the pandemic.
People’s sufferings have multiplied due to soaring prices of basic necessities including rice, edible oil, sugar, atta and coral lentil, while rising diesel prices, liquefied petroleum gas, water and rising transport rates over the past two years have compounded their woes.
As of Saturday, the coarse rice variety was selling for Tk 46-50 per kg in the city while the price was Tk 44-48 on May 17, 2021, according to data from the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh.
Bottled soybean oil was selling for Tk 165-170 per liter that day, while the item was selling for Tk 100-108 per liter in March 2021.
The coarse variety of red lentils sold for Tk 100-115 per kg per day, but the price of the item was Tk 65-70 in March 2021.
Prices for vegetables and chickens have also meanwhile risen sharply while beef now sells for 650 taka per kg, well beyond the reach of the poor and low-income groups.