‘Never bought such small amounts of groceries before’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 01, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:17 AM, May 01, 2021

‘Never bought such small amounts of groceries before’

Karail slum dwellers living off Tk 10 packs of essentials amid pandemic

Forty-year-old Tasmin Begum was seen buying a pack of lentils for Tk 10 from her local shop near Karail slum last Monday.

"I've never purchased such small quantities of groceries before," she said.

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She usually bought larger quantities to feed her family of four before the pandemic began last year.

"I'll cook the lentils using a very small amount of oil and turmeric, and a litre of water," Tasmin explained.

"I've been living here for the last 25 years. My husband is a tea vendor. He used to make Tk 400-500 daily, but now he earns Tk 150 on average. So, we have to cut corners as best as we can," she said. "We'll have this lentil with rice for lunch and dinner."

"We had taken loan of Tk 60,000 from our relatives during the last lockdown in 2020. But we won't get any loans this year, because we couldn't pay back the earlier amount," Tasmin said.

Tasmin is among many residents of the slum who are relying on small packs of different essentials at just Tk 10 to sustain themselves during the pandemic.

Noorjahan Begum (20) told this correspondent while on her way back from a shop, "I purchased a Tk 10 packet of sugar to make tea. I'll use the leftover sugar to make some juice."

At least 25 shops in and around the slum were seen selling these packs.

Azizul Islam (50), a shopkeeper in the area, said his customers prefer to purchase essentials in these small packs instead of opting for the usual method of weight measurement.

"Sometimes, I even sell Tk 5 packets," said Azizul. He had opened his shop about five years ago.

"I made a good number of sales for the first four years. But sales dropped since the pandemic began last year," he explained.

Azizul had to take a loan of Tk 3 lakh from different people and NGOs to keep himself afloat. "I haven't been able to repay the loans at the desired rate so far," he expressed his frustration.

Multiple shopkeepers told this correspondent that slum dwellers do not have the same purchasing capacity anymore, and most are buying food items on a daily basis.

They said sales at shops have dropped to half, and shopkeepers are not making enough profit even after adapting to the daily packs worth Tk 10.

Abdus Sobhan, president of Korail Bosti Unnayan Committee (Bowbazar unit), said, "These Tk 10 packs were sold before the pandemic as well, but in very small quantities. But the packs have become really popular now, as the lower-income groups' purchasing power has decreased."

Around 30,000 families live in the Korail slum, according to Sobhan.  

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