They are on the hunt for work amid lockdown, but jobs are difficult to come by

Lal Miah is over 60 years old and works as a day labourer. For the past two weeks, he hasn’t found any work because of the coronavirus pandemic. But he still made his way to the Rampura Super Market area at the crack of dawn on the first day of the ‘strictest lockdown’ on Thursday to continue his search for a day’s wages.

About 35 other day labourers were in front of the market at 7 am on Thursday, carrying spades, sickles and other tools of their trade. Upon seeing this correspondent, several of them rushed forward, thinking they might be able to secure work. When I introduced myself as a reporter, the disappointment was palpable -- there wasn’t any work to be had.

But Lal Miah, who hailed from the Faridpur municipal area, was still willing to talk.

“Please find some work for me,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get any job for 15 days. They don’t take me because of my age.”

The government has urged people to stay home during the ‘strictest lockdown’ in order to curb the second wave of coronavirus cases sweeping through the country.

“The only thing I can do by staying at home is starve to death,” said Lal Miah. “At the end of the day, if I manage to get work, I’ll be able to afford a meal.”

Lal Miah lost his wife a few years ago and was living with his two sons and two daughters. He spent most of his savings and sold his belongings to arrange marriages for his daughters. His sons, though grown up, are unemployed.

“My boys can’t do much. They don’t get work. When I earn some money, I can buy something for them as well.”

Mujibur Talukder, who hails from Patuakhali, has also come to the Rampura Super Market looking for work. He lives with his wife, two sons and a daughter. He hasn’t found work in nine or 10 days, he said.

“We have no savings at home. No food either. I don’t know how my family will survive. If lockdowns continue in this way, my family and I will starve to death!”

Kazi Alam, from Pirojpur, also left home early to hunt for a day’s work.

“I haven’t found any work for a few days,” he said. “Sometimes we get the opportunity to make some money, but nobody wants to pay us more than Tk 200-400 for work they paid Tk 500-600 for in the past. But I still come here, hoping to find something. Maybe I’ll get work if I’m lucky.”

Shahabuddin, from Patuakhali, is a mason. He has been out of work for a week. “There isn’t much construction work to be had in the city at the moment. But even if I can’t find construction work, I’ll do whatever else comes along.”

Shahabuddin says he has a wife and two young children.

“If the lockdown continues, I don’t know what we’ll eat. If the government could make some arrangements for us, at least we could feed the children. It’s hard to find work under normal circumstances, and, with the lockdown, I don’t know if there’s any work to be had. The future looks dark.”