Iftar crowds go missing under lockdown shadow in Dhaka

  • Kamal Talukder, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-05-02 00:20:02 BdST

The restaurants and makeshift food shops draw huge crowds in Dhaka before Iftar during Ramadan every year, but the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown to slow it have changed it all.

The month of Ramadan has arrived in Bangladesh amidst unprecedented curbs on public movement and trade as a vast number of the population are staying at home to avoid infection.

Though the government has eased the lockdown, allowing the restaurants to sell Iftar delicacies and other shops to remain open for two more hours, most eateries are closed.

The restaurateurs say they have suffered the setback due to staffing shortage and the ban on display of Iftar foods on pavements.

The police said everyone must follow physical distancing rules while buying Iftar and cannot eat at the restaurants.

Khandaker Ruhul Amin, the president of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners’ Association, said, “Our staff have left. And we can only sell takeaways. These are some of the reasons why many are not reopening business.”

“And we can’t attract the customers without displaying the food. How many people would buy parcelled food? Public movement is also low due to the coronavirus,” he said.

Nearly 97 percent of the around 8,000 restaurants in the capital have remained shut amid the lockdown, according to Ruhul Amin.

Some shops in Bailey Road and Gulshan have reopened, but the ones that sell famous traditional items in Old Dhaka drawing food lovers from across the city are closed.

Ruhul Amin said they asked the employees not to rejoin their job if the situation does not improve. “What if they catch coronavirus on the way and spread it?” he asked.

Another restaurateur said he kept his business closed because it would count losses if it sold only Iftar items.

“Maybe we can pay for the ingredients, but how would we pay the wages and allowances?” he asked.

Md Zinnat, the owner of Zinnat Hotel and Restaurant in Noyabazar, said none of his 26 staff members want to get back to work.

Md Faruk, the owner of Shahjahan Bakery, said he retained only five of his 40 staff to make breads and biscuits.

“We used to make 60 bakery products and 15 Iftar items,” he said.

Chawkbazar’s Shahi Iftar Bazar, where thousands of people gather daily during Ramadan, is forlorn.

Only Alauddin Sweetmeat has reopened to sell some items, but no shop near the Shahi Mosque resumed business.

“We’ve asked the restaurants to sell Iftar items, but none of them agrees. Some don’t have employees while some others give different reasons,” Chawkbazar Police Station OC Moudut Howlader said.

Bongshal Police Station OC Shahin Fakir said all the restaurants, including famous eatery Razzak Hotel, have remained closed.