"This is the only work we know. When our incomes are cut off from this, we don't have anywhere else to go," said Shamsuddin, a loading worker at Barishal River Port.
Around 400-500 workers like him earn their living working various menial jobs at the port. While the rest of the country is enduring through the second week of the "lockdown", the situation is worse for them, as the river port shut down a week before.
Three weeks into no incomes, the workers are now at the brink of their fears. "Nobody has come to see us, even though we're passing the worst time with our families," one of them told this correspondent on Sunday morning.
Kasem Bhai has been working at the port for many decades. At 74, he's one of the oldest labourers at Barishal River Port. "I have been carrying load for 50 years. Before me, my father also worked as a loading worker. In all my years, I have never seen such a dire situation. Only Allah knows how all these families are staying alive," the veteran lamented.
Even if there's almost no work at the port, some still come here, perhaps in desperation, perhaps out of habit. "I come here once a day, praying to God there's something for me," worker Abdul Sattar said.
When the port is running in full-swing, a worker usually earns up to Tk 400 to Tk 500. From there to zero earning for three weeks running has left the workers in dire straits.
The workers held launch owners partly
responsible for their situation. They alleged that despite knowing of the "lockdown" in advance, the owners did not take any preemptive steps to safeguard the workers' livelihoods.
They said during last year's "lockdown", they managed to pull through thanks to some kindhearted individuals who visited and helped them with money, groceries, or meals, as well as the mayor of Barishal City Corporation who also provided some assistance.
This time around, however, only a few have come to visit. Parimal Das, president of Labour League Barishal City Committee, was one of them. He told this correspondent that he has informed the deputy commissioner of the workers' woes and requested intervention to save their lives.
Contacted , Barishal River Port officer Mostafizur Rahman said, "I have informed the higher authorities about the situation of the workers and asked them to provide any kind of assistance they can."