The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has been taking a heavy toll on low-income groups as they have been facing income losses and taking out loans to cope with the pandemic fallout.
While the second wave is sweeping across the nation even before the affects of the first are fully recovered from, low-income people, including day-labourers, rickshaw-pullers, and roadside hawkers, are facing the real struggle of the ongoing restrictions on travelling and office activities widely known as a "lockdown", said a research published yesterday.
"Right to Food Bangladesh" published the quick, explorative research on possible impacts of the price hike of essential products on the food intake of low-income people, from a webinar.
The income of about 66 percent of the people in low-income groups has reduced, Senior Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies Nazneen Ahmed said while presenting the research, which was done between March 25 to April 6. It interviewed 70 people from low-income groups in Dhaka, Dinajpur, Faridpur, Jhenaidah, Meherpur, Mymensingh and Sirajganj.
The research said that about 27 percent of the respondents said they take food twice a day and 32 percent of them said that there was no presence of animal protein (fish/meat/egg) in their daily meals.
Of the respondents, 37 percent said they took loans, 17 percent decreased family expenses, and 10 percent are living hand-to-mouth, to manage their families at the moment.
The study said that the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) showed that the inflation rate increased by 0.15 percentage points in March from that of 5.32 percent in February.
Both the food and non-food inflation rates increased in March compared to the previous month.
The food inflation increased by 0.09 percentage points to 5.51 per cent in the last month from 5.42 percent in February.
The non-food inflation also increased slightly by 0.22 percentage points to 5.39 per cent in March from 5.17 percent in the previous month.
The inflation in rural areas rose at a higher rate than that of the urban areas, it said.
The research recommended ensuring food security for all citizens and expanding open market sales for the next one year. They also said there should be some permanent area-wise open market sale stores. The Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) should expand its selling capacity and rich people should stop panic-purchasing.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, at the programme, said that the country is witnessing an abnormal situation. The prices of essentials increased and people are losing their daily income.
The government is working to reduce the prices of essentials, he said, adding that they are trying to increase the open market sales through the TCB.
Dhaka University Professor Sayema Haque Bidisha, also research director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (Sanem), Consumer Association of Bangladesh Vice President SM Nazer Hossain, among others spoke at the programme.