According to the last poverty mapping report of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) done in 2016, Kurigram has a poverty rate of 70.8 per cent. In Rajibpur this is 79.8 per cent, the highest poverty among upazilas. The people of this district and its upazilas are at a loss with the increase in the prices of essentials.

Zahirul said he earns 300 taka in daily wages when he gets work. He manages to get work around 20 days a month on average. It becomes difficult to buy rice, dal (lentils), oil, onions, chillies and essentials along with other expenses of the family with just Tk 6000 a month. They own no land and live in a house made of jute sticks on 10 decimals of land of his father.

Visibly distressed, Zahirul says it is difficult for him to buy the TCB ‘package’ because he doesn’t have so much money in one go.

Like everywhere else in the country, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) is selling packages comprising two litres of soybean oil, two kg sugar, two kg lentils and two kg chickpeas. The package costs Tk 530 in total.

A visit around a few unions of Rajibpur upazila on Thursday revealed the sufferings of the poor people there. The people of the villages said they were cutting expenses as much as they could. Many families were not cooking with oil unless absolutely needed. Some have cut down on onions. Some were using less dal and more water. Some of them said they often had to eat half a meal.

Housewife Hanufa Khatun (42) and Saiful Islam (50) of the river-eroded village Shankarmadhabpur have a six-member family. They live in a house of jute sticks on their 4 decimal plot of land. Saiful goes from house to house collecting scraps and sells these in the market for around 250 to 300 taka.

Hanufa says, “My husband doesn’t always manage to earn that much and then we have to borrow. We have to eat, after all. I have cooked without oil for so many days. We can eat that food somehow, but the children don’t want to.”

Marzina Begum (50), a housewife of Badarpur village says her family consists of her husband, their four children, her mother-in-law and herself. He husband Rahizul Bhuiyan (60) is a day labourer and their son Mofizul is an auto-rickshaw driver. They earn around Tk 500 to 600 a day which they spend on rice, dal and vegetables. They only get to eat meat or fish once in every two or three months if they manage some extra income.

Certain grocers in the Rajibpur bazaar said the prices of rice, dal, oil, chillies, onions, soap and everything has gone up. The oil that cost Tk 130 last year, now costs Tk 168. Lentils which was Tk 80 now costs Tk 100 per kg. Sugar went up from Tk 75 to Tk 80 per kg. The price of soap had increased by 5 to 10 taka.

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