Nearly 1.5 million rickshaw pullers in Dhaka and their families are dependent on the occupation and 60 percent of city dwellers use rickshaws for commuting, according to a study by Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) yesterday.
These rickshaw pullers are deprived of their rights due to a lack of policy, the study said, claiming that the government wants to limit their number without a proper rehabilitation plan.
Khandoker Abdus Salam, co-author of the study “Organising the Informal Economy Workers: A Study of Rickshaw Pullers in Dhaka City”, presented it at BILS’ seminar hall in the capital’s Dhanmondi.
Data were collected recently from surveying 200 rickshaw pullers from Badda, Hazaribag, Jatrabari and Shajahanpur areas; 20 garage owners; two city corporation executives and two traffic police.
Salam, also a programme consultant of BILS, said most rickshaw pullers living in the city come from northern parts of the country, including 36 percent from Rajshahi and 22 percent from Rangpur. On an average, they earn Tk 13,382 a month.
“Among them, 54 percent have loans and 94 percent do not receive any assistance,” he said.
Salam said 95 percent rickshaw pullers are harassed by law enforcers, passengers, transport workers and rickshaw owners. He said 96 percent of them hire rickshaws on rent from garage owners and 20 percent do not receive any facility from there.
He said there is no provision of providing driving license to rickshaw pullers and for this, they frequently face various constraints.
Also, he said, 94 percent of rickshaw pullers suffer from diseases including fever, cough, pain, weakness, jaundice and diarrhoea, and they go to quacks for treatment or purchase medicine from pharmacies without prescription.
He urged the government to introduce a proper policy for rickshaw pullers until their rehabilitation.
Lawmaker Shirin Akhter, vice chairperson of BILS, said the government should think about their training, housing, fixing the fare, health insurance, welfare fund and rehabilitation.
MP Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan, general secretary of Jatiya Mahila Sramik League, said rickshaw pullers should be included in the social safety net programmes.
BILS Chairman Habibur Rahman Siraj chaired the event, where Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik League General Secretary Insur Ali, Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal General Secretary Nurul Islam Khan Nasim and Rickshaw O Van Malik Samity President Harunur Rashid Khan also spoke.