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92 per cent plainland ethnic minorities see income fall

The coronavirus epidemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of 92 per cent or 18.4 lakh plain land ethnic minority people in Bangladesh by reducing their income, revealed a study released on Thursday by Indigenous Peoples Development Services.

Half a million of the affected people lost their jobs for good and became new poor after the coronavirus crisis emerged in the country in March, said the study conducted by IPDS in association with Minority Rights Group.

‘The most alarming finding is that the income of indigenous people keeps going down,’ said Bangladesh Adivasi Forum general secretary Sanjeeb Drong while revealing the study findings in an online meeting.

He said that after losing land to grabbers over the years, most of the 20 lakh ethnic minorities in plain land had to take insecure jobs, namely jobs of day labourers, security guards and beauticians, where they had to completely rely on other people for their livelihood.

Many work as house helps while others as drivers or salesmen or readymade garment workers and almost all of them are experiencing income fall ever since the coronavirus crisis has emerged, he said

The study was conducted on 1,205 ethnic minority families representing 35 communities living in 28 districts.

Many of the ethnic minorities have already returned home from Dhaka after losing their jobs.

Some of them have to sell property or other valuables to pay house rents before leaving Dhaka houses.

The study recommended for introducing special financial incentive for ethnic minorities by the government, giving soft loans to the new poor, employing 20,000 ethnic minority youths in part time jobs and raising the number of ethnic minority beneficiaries receiving Tk 2,500 from the government to 50,000 from only 2,000.

An incentive for Garo women working as beauticians should be introduced, recommended by the study.

Nagarik Udyog chief executive Zakir Hossain said that they conducted a study with similar findings that showed many ethnic minority people were mortgaging their crop in advance or availing high interest loans from loan sharks to avoid starving amid the pandemic.

Gram Bikash Kendra director Sarah Marandy said that they worked with 14,000 families in Rajshahi and Rangpur where malnutrition was acute and literacy was poor even before the COVID-19 situation.

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