Yusuf Biswash, who lives in a slum in Mirpur’s section 6 area, came to Mirpur 2 area around 7:00pm on Sunday to buy essentials at an affordable price.
Like everyone else, he stood in queue in front a truck selling rice and flour under the food ministry's Open Market Sales (OMS) programme. After standing for about four hours, a tired Yusuf Biswas sat on the ground. Daily wage earner Shahjan Mrida, too, followed him.
Yusuf Biswas is a carpenter. As he sustained injuries on the back in a road accident several months ago, he cannot work regularly. His daughter sells bead garland and earns about Tk 3,000 a month. Yusuf Biswas runs his five-member family with about Tk 13-16 thousand a month.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Yusuf Biswas said he did not stand in this queue up until that time he started facing crisis for over two and three months. “I can’t stand in line for long due to back pain and I need to sit after a while.”
Khodeja Begum from Gudaraghat area came to Mirpur 2 area for household work. She, too, stood in the OMS line on Sunday morning after working at two houses. She will also work at two more houses after purchasing goods from the OMS truck.
“Had the goods been sold at low price at markets, would I have been here? I work at people’s house for a living and I had to come leaving my job,” she lamented.
Amid the surge in essentials prices, people like Yusuf Biswas and Khodeja Begum are gathering every day in front of OMS trucks selling goods including rice and flour under the food ministry’s OMS programme.
Under the OMS programme, the government sells rice at Tk 30 a kg, loose flour at Tk 24 a kg, and a packet of 2-kg flour at Tk 55. A customer can purchase maximum five kg of rice and five kg of loose flour or two packets of 2-kg flour.
The OMS programme that sells goods at a lower price than market price is mainly for low-income people, but recently people from lower-middle class have also seen joining the queue to purchase essentials.
A government employee was also in the line in front of the OMS truck in Mirpur 2. Wishing not to be named, the person, who is an office assistant at the primary and mass education ministry, said he has been purchasing goods from OMS truck for two months after flour price increases in markets.
He takes a two-hour break on every Sunday to buy essentials for the OMS truck. “I can buy and a packet of 2-kg flour at Tk 55 here instated of spending Tk 150 at local market for same amount of product. I come because I am left with no other option.”
According to this government employee, his several colleagues also purchased essentials from OMS points.
Wishing anonymity, an official of the Directorate General of Food who is tasked with monitoring OMS programme in Mirpur area said there was no such number of customers six month ago, with crowd rising every time recently.
Previously, sale of goods on trucks did not end until evening, but now all goods were sold at most 3:00pm, the officials added.
Meantime, the government increased OMS points in Dhaka and will sell rice and flour at 20 new points. A distributor of OMS sells 2,000 kg of rice and 1,000 kg of flour daily.
When asked, chief controller of Dhaka Rationing Office Suraiya Khatun told Prothom Alo previously such huge crowd did not come to OMS truck. “We will apply to higher authorities to increase allocation of rice and flour amid current situation,” she added.
*This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna