Rising prices of essential commodities have put transport workers, who have been recovering from the pandemic shock in slow motion, to a new struggle for survival.
They are even compromising on their basic needs to live by keeping pace with the inflation; the majority of them now take less protein, while many have stopped their children's education.
With a cut in savings, they have tightened their purse strings and reduced money sent to their village homes as their incomes have not increased proportionately.
Mohammad Swapan has been pulling rickshaws in the capital's Mohammadpur area for long. "I used to earn Tk500-600 after paying the daily rent. As I was struggling to manage my daily expenses and the costs of the family living in village homes with the amount, I started to work 7 days a week," he told The Business Standard.
Earlier, the middle-aged rickshaw puller worked 5 days a week. "Pulling the rickshaw without weekly rest is very tough but I am forced to do that."
"Even six months ago, the cost of food at my mess was only Tk2,800, which is now Tk3,500. Despite the increase in money, we now eat less than before," he said, adding that he sent his two children to work at a shop in his village in Mymensingh, instead of studying.
"There is no alternative now as all our assets [land] were sold out a year ago during the peak of pandemic."
Several other rickshaw pullers in Moghbazar, Tejgaon, Banglamotors and Kalyanpur also shared their miserable stories. They said they were earlier able to save Tk100-200 after all expenses but now they have to borrow money. Once they used to take chicken once or twice a week, now it happens once a month.
Not only rickshaw pullers, all the transport sector workers including bus, pickup van, autorickshaw drivers, and helpers are now in the same struggle.
CNG-driven auto-rickshaw driver Jamal Hossain was seen waiting for passengers opposite the Tejgaon Polytechnic College. Talking to The Business Standard, he said he earns around Tk2,000 from early morning to late night.
After paying Tk1,080 to the owner as rent, and some Tk200-300 as fuel costs, he was failing to manage his five-member family with the remaining amount. "As commodity prices hike abnormally, I failed to meet the demands of all my family members. I have even stopped sending money to the village home."
Two other CNG-auto rickshaw drivers, standing next to Jamal, also expressed their frustration. They said although their income fell drastically with the beginning of the pandemic, they were now returning to normal condition. They even could manage their family well before the recent price hikes, but now they cannot do so.
They told TBS that they have now stopped buying meat and other costlier items and lowered the use of oil and spices.
Abdul Rahim, a driver of a mini pickup van who lives in Tejgaon, said he used to send more than Tk10,000 monthly to his family in Bhola but now he sends less.
Shajahan Dhali from Natunbazar slum of Kalyanpur said he drives a bus and earns Tk600 per day. To cope with rising inflation, he also cut the costs of meals.
Apart from the transport sector workers, many who own cars or motorcycles now share rides to earn extra so that they can cope with the soaring commodity prices.
Nazmul Hasan is one such example who works in a private company with a salary of Tk20,000 per month. As he was failing to meet all the expenses of his six-member family with the amount, he recently joined Pathao, a popular ride-sharing service.
After his office hours, Nazmul now shares rides till midnight.
"I have had some debts for increased family expenses. It was impossible to pay that with my salary only. So I started ride-sharing."
Amid the Russia-Ukraine war, the prices of food and consumer goods increased so much that people with limited incomes from all sectors are struggling to manage their daily expenses. Transport workers are one of the worst sufferers.
In such a situation, the Bangladesh Workers Welfare Federation recently urged the government to introduce a ration system for them so that they can cope with the commodity price hikes.