Amdadul Haque: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that triggered hardships for almost all segment of people has put middle-class families in ‘no way-out situation’ as they are forced to battle the most for survival during the crisis.
When most of the people have lost their jobs, it is now also a common sight that even if anyone has a job, the salary has come down by half. Spikes of the COVID-19 are injuring the middle-class people with such ferocity that makes them unable to pay the house rent and also to protect family members from corona.
The amount of money that they had saved in the past was also spent in the last three-four months. Thinking about social status, now they are not able to express their hardships and difficulties to others, resulting in their departure from the capital city. They are even being forced to seek financial help from religious funds like zakat.
Researchers said, the middle-class people are facing the worst situation as they have not enough money to continue livelihoods. Hunger is prevalent among the middle class now, but they can’t even tell about their hardships to anyone due to public shame. Again, many public representatives are not also looking after the peril-stricken people and the situation is gradually reaching to such an ebb that makes it difficult for the middle class to survive now.
Even the middle class of the country is coming down to the tiers of the lower middle class or lower class due to the Corona virus epidemic while the number of the poor is increasing.
According to researchers, the number of poor in the country, which was 21 percent at the beginning of March, now stands at 35-40 percent. In other words, where the number of poor people was three crores before, it has now become six and a half crores.
The researchers also said that 35 percent of the total population of the country is middle class and coronavirus has directly affected 15-20 percent of the people.
Executive director of the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Fahmida Khatun told that “The situation is actually very complex. We are going through difficult times. The middle class is the most affected. That is why they are avoiding the costs that can be avoided. For that they are leaving the rented houses in the city and going to the villages. Now I see Corona virus is being spread among relatives, friends and acquaintances.”
Highlighting the crisis of the middle class, the researcher said that many people who used to work have lost their jobs. “Many have jobs, but they are getting paid. Many are not getting full salary. The middle class is dependent on jobs and small businesses. That is why the pressure on the middle class is high” she added.
She said, “They don’t even have savings. There is no other way for them to survive. That is why they are under tremendous pressure.”
On the other hand, people have started leaving the capital city as they cannot continue their livelihoods smoothly. The people of this city have never seen such a huge number of advertisements for renting. Houses. Some homeowners have reduced their rents during the epidemic. According to the Tenant Council, 50,000 families have left Dhaka since March.
Besides, many middle-class families have left their homes due to loss of jobs and financial hardships. Many tenants have already informed the landlords that they want to leave the houses. In this situation, ‘To let’ is now hanging in vacant houses and apartments in almost all areas of the capital Dhaka.
According to a survey by the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), a consumer rights group, house rents in the capital have risen nearly 400 percent in last 25 years. At the same time, the prices of daily necessities have increased by 200 percent. In other words, the rate of increase in house rent has become almost double the price of daily commodities at this time.
Moving around Hatirpul, Moghbazar, Rampura, Banasree and Kathalbagan areas of the capital, the Bangladesh Post correspondent found that some homeowners could not find tenants in a couple of months. This is increasing the anxiety of houseowners. Some homeowners have also reduced the rent so that their homes do not remain vacant. But it is not also working.
Mirajul, a middle-class resident of Shyamoly, said, “Our lifestyle has changed. Many are sending their families to the villages as they cannot cope with the situation. The heads of the families are moving to the mess houses by sending their families to the villages.
After visiting different areas of the capital and talking to middle-class people and some professionals, it was found out that many do not have any income, resulting in inability to pay rent arrears. Some people have left the houses after quarreling with the owners.
House owners are also not well off in such situations. According to the owners, “We understand how the tenants will pay the rent if there is no work. The rent is the source of income for many owners, so they also have nothing to do.” The owner of a building in Mogbazar said, “My family has to depend on monthly rent to maintain family expenses. If the house is vacant, we also suffer a loss, so we are reducing the rent to get some new tenants.”
In this regard, researcher Ibrahim Khalil told media that middle class people left home and went to the villages as they do not have the situation to pay the house rent.