24.5pc people leaving villages for towns due to lack of livelihood: Study

Speakers at a seminar ‘Urban poverty in Bangladesh: Land, Migration and Basic Services’ at the National Press Club on 28 August, 2023
Prothom Alo

Nearly 24.5 per cent families have left villages for towns due to lack of scope of work there while over 20 per cent left the rural areas with the hope of something better. Crisis in agriculture production has made the rural people internal migrants, finds a study ‘Poverty in urban areas in Bangladesh’.

The research findings were presented in a seminar ‘Urban poverty in Bangladesh: Land, Migration and Basic Services’ at the National Press Club on Monday. Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) and Human Development Research Centre (HDRC) jointly organised the seminar.

Professor Abul Barakat led the research done by HDRC with the cooperation of ALRD. The research was conducted on 480 families from eight city corporations and eight pourashavas between May and July last year.

Some 94 slum dwellers in urban areas are landless people, says the research finds. The average annual income of those families is just over Tk 150,000. Sixty-eight per cent of them said they send money to relatives living in rural areas. Some 82 per cent of slum dwellers told the research team that they live in insecurity of food availability.

Presenting the synopsis of the research findings, Abul Barakat said the rate of urban poverty, according to this research is not less than 40 per cent, though the government data claims the number is 18.9 per cent.

The research also said living condition in the slums is completely inhumane. All the family members live in one small room there. Only 16 per cent of them have access to safe sanitation and potable water. Besides, the amount of money they spend for access to water, electricity and gas in relation to their income is much higher than rich people. They are victims of disparity here.

Some 41 per cent of members of slum-dwelling families never went to school and 64 per cent go to local pharmacies for medical treatment. Though 95 per cent of the slum dwellers use mobile phones, only 5 per cent have accounts in traditional banks. Nearly 12 per cent of them have got the government’s social safety programmes and 28 per cent received elderly allowance.

Speaking at the programme, Abul Barakat said most of the activities of social safety net programmes if rural area-centric. But this does not mean the rural people are in a better condition. All the concerned authorities will have work in unison otherwise the town-ward migration cannot be stopped unless the quality of life in rural areas is not improved.

Speaking at the programme as president, rights activist Sultana Kamal said those who live in slums actually live in a vicious cycle of poverty. What the state mechanism is doing overall for elevating their quality of life and the condition the have been living to avail the advantages have a role. Political goodwill is necessary for their development. The liberation war was fought not for surviving only. Rather, the goal was that every person can live with equal dignity.

ALRD’s executive director Shamsul Huda said those people will have to be freed from the discrimination they face to turn them into bigger resources. Currently, higher education is being disseminated at a whim. Universities are being opened at the districts. But it needs to be enquired what is being taught there, he insisted.

Former professor of the economics department at Dhaka University, Shafiq Uz Zaman said the urban poverty situation was not supposed to be like if the speed of industrialisation in urban areas and development in agricultural sector in rural areas was faster. Those who are migrating from villages are not being involved with industries. This is a crisis. This is not making urbanisation; instead what is happening can be called slumification. This migration is not for agriculture and industries. Instead people are migrating to towns due to crises in rural areas, he argued.

Former general secretary of Bangladesh Economic Association (BEA) Jamal Uddin Ahmed, Bangladesh Samajtantric Dal’s (BASAD) Barishal district unit member secretary Monisha Chakrabarty, among others, addresses the event.