POST TIME: 25 November, 2015 00:00 00 AM
Poor flock together to Khulna city for better lives
Staff Reporter, Khulna

Poor flock together to Khulna 
city for better lives

Several hundreds extreme poor people migrate to Khulna city this season for higher income to improve their lives after their hopes turn into despair in several ways. They include rickshaw and van pullers, helpers of trucks, buses and minibuses, vegetable vendors, fishermen, small traders, masons, staff of tea stalls and restaurants, garbage hunters and beggars. These people with their low income are living sub-human lives in shanties and slums by erecting makeshift cottages with bamboo, polythene and straw.
According to Khulna Election office, there are 1,48,768 voters from 39,244 families in 651 slums under eight police stations in the city, which account for about 33 percent of the total 4,40,566 voters before the KCC election on June 15, 2013.
Convener of Khulna Nagarik Samaj Advocate AFM Mohsin said, “The increasing number of floating people in Khulna city is poising a big challenge to the sanitation success across the city. Their entry into Khulna has worried city authorities as these people are getting involved in disruptive activities.”
He also voiced concern over safety of the girls in the shanties of the city slums, where drug peddlers and human traffickers also prowl. Dr AKM Abdullah, chief medical officer of KCC, said slum dwellers suffer from various  diseases like diarrhoea, dermatitis, jaundice and pneumonia due to lack of sanitary latrines and safe drinking water. All the slum dwellers are deprived of civic facilities, including safe drinking water and electricity, he added. Although most of the male members of such rootless people are working as day-labourers, the children and women usually collect polythene bags, unused plastic and metal products from different streets, lanes and by-lanes in the city.  
But a large number of such children and women are getting involved in various criminal activities like stealing, selling narcotic substances and prostitution in a bid to eke out a livelihood. As a result, anti-social activities have also increased in the city claimed a good number of city dwellers. A portion of these homeless people choose begging as their way of earning, they said.
Sources in the law enforcing agencies said members of the drug traders’ syndicates force the street children and floating women to peddle the drugs such as Phensidyl, heroin and cannabis among the consumers, taking advantage of their helplessness.
These large number of floating people are taking shelter under the open sky at night in Khulna railway station, Sonadanga bus terminal, launch terminal and adjacent areas of different multi-stored commercial buildings. They use footpaths, drains and parks for defecation at dawn, according to statistics.
Mayor (acting) of Khulna City Corporation (KCC) Anisur Rahman Biswas said, “Khulna is regarded as one of the cheapest and the friendliest cities in Bangladesh. The city has very peaceful environment, free from mugging, toll-realising, extortion and musclemen. For being a friendly and livable city, a huge number of poor, landless people, mainly day labourers, are rushing to the city and taking shelter elsewhere on the pavement, beside the railway track, river banks and even at the open spaces.”
Anis stressed that more than 30 percent of the population live below the poverty line. The number of poor and ultra poor is increasing day by day. Frequent natural disasters make the situation worse, increasing the risk of vulnerability.
Particularly, the southwestern coastal belt of Bangladesh is one of the most disaster prone zones in the world where storm, cyclone, tidal surge, drought, river erosion and water-logging are now common. Due to climate change, the disasters are increasing both in frequency and intensity, threatening lives and livelihoods. “I’ve been living in the streets since my birth. It is my home. I gather waste papers to earn my daily bread,” said Ferdous a ten-year-old boy from Rupsha area. Hailing from Kaliganj upazila of Satkhira district as a river erosion victim, Kamal Hossain, a rickshaw puller, in the city’s Sonadanga slum said he was allured by his relatives’ lives in Khulna, who also had migrated to the big city because of extreme poverty and seasonal unemployment, in order to a get job that ensures higher wages for a better living.