“When food was hardly available in my make-shift shed even on the Eid day, clothes for the festival was simply a dream for my children”, said Salma Begum, a homeless erosion victim living on Nilkuthi flood control dyke in Phulchhari upazila.
Deserted by her husband, Salma, 28, has been living on the dyke with her two daughters and mother for the last two years after their homestead was devoured by the Jamuna. Her husband left the family for an unknown destination and remained traceless till date.
Salma, however, pulled her family through working at the cropfields and during off season, as maid at houses of landlords.
Many of the dyke dwellers like Salma did not know how and when the Eid festival came and passed off. They never saw any festive mood since taking shelter on the dyke. About 170 such families took shelter on Nilkuthi dyke and most of them have been living there for the last three years.
While visiting the dyke on Friday, this correspondent witnessed no air of Eid festival in the area. Children were seen playing as usual on the dyke without wearing any new clothes while the girls and women were gossiping in groups because there was no special cooking on the day.
“We usually take a single meal everyday. Cooking starts in the evening after the male members return from work”, said Phuljan Bibi of the dyke.
In time of acute crisis, it becomes difficult to borrow foodgrains from a neighbour, as all of us are poor and destitute and living here hand to mouth”, she added.
Sometimes in the rainy season they get relief from the local chairman and in the winter the UNO distributes blankets, otherwise nobody comes to the aid of these poor inhabitants, said Nizamuddin, an elderly man.
Maleka Begum, wife of day labourer Azizer Mia, said “Sometimes it becomes difficult for me to arrange even a morsel of food, because my husband is unable to work as he has been suffering from acute illness for the last two months”.
Admitting the woes of dyke dwellers, Habibur Rahman, upazila chairman of Phulchhari, said they face serious difficulty to bring the dyke people to the list of the mainstream victims because they have no permanent address and often migrate to else other places. Besides, the union parishad has no adequate sources to extend help, he added.
The authorities should take initiative to rehabilitate these floating people and take permanent measures to control river erosion, he observed.