Published: Friday, March 22, 2013

Day labourers feel the pinch of hartals

Women, dependent on daily wage basis menial work for earning, wait at the 'job market' at Sasthitala in Dinajpur Sadar upazila during a hartal day this week that saw only a few employers offering a handful of work.  PHOTO: STAR

Women, dependent on daily wage basis menial work for earning, wait at the ‘job market’ at Sasthitala in Dinajpur Sadar upazila during a hartal day this week that saw only a few employers offering a handful of work. PHOTO: STAR

A large number of daily basis workers in the district are passing hard days amid uncertainty of income due to tough political programmes like frequent hartal for the last couple of weeks.

Daily wage earners including construction workers, carpenters, rickshaw pullers, daily basis shop workers, transport workers and mill workers have to bear the brunt of frequent hartal since late February.

Four large job markets for day labourers in the district, including the largest one at Sasthitola in Dinajpur Sadar upazila, see gathering of a large number of daily job seekers and employers from different places of the district.

On usual days, workers get job that earn Tk 100 to 350 daily, depending on the nature and amount of work.

But during the ‘hartal days’, only a small number of job seekers get work while others returned home frustrated.

“During the last three weeks, I got work only five days as there was hartal on several days,” said Md Asir Uddin, a construction worker of Farkabat village in Biral upazila under Dinajpur district.

“I have to earn at least Tk 300 a day to maintain my five-member family. But on hartal days, often I have to remain jobless and we pass the day half-fed,” said Md Mazed Mia of Baluaganga village in Dinajpur Sadar upazila.

Kalpana, who usually works as helper of mason, said her daily earning is affected due to continuous hartal.

Payment of the weekly instalments to refund the loan that she took from an NGO adds to her worry.

To meet urgent family expenses, daily wage earners often take loan from different NGOs on condition to refund it with interest in weekly instalments, locals said.

Several daily basis workers including Aklima Begum, Rahima Khatun and Rubina Akter said they had to spend up their small savings to meet family expenses as they missed job for days during the last three weeks.

During hartal, employers tend to give lesser amount as wage as labourers outnumber the available jobs.

“I usually earn Tk 300 a day, but it has dropped to Tk 200 as I have no chance to bargain with the job providers,” said Rustam Mia, a daily job seeker from Kaharol upazila.

Hartal badly affects business activities and low-income grassroots people are directly affected due to it, said Md Rafiqul Islam, president of Dinajpur Chamber of Commence and Industry.