Women selling clothing door-to-door in Thakurgaon town have been facing the wrath of Covid-19 pandemic for about a year.
Many of them had been making a living from selling women's clothing such as saris and 'three-piece' for over a decade. But their sales started to take a nosedive after the first wave of the pandemic hit the country last year.
Although most of them suffered massive losses last year, none of them received any financial assistance under the stimulus package the government offered last year for businesses that had been affected badly by the pandemic.
Before they got the chance to recover from last year's losses, the second wave of the pandemic is spreading across the country in full force and the saleswomen have been witnessing their clothing sales decline sharply again this year.
Many of the saleswomen said that they have been in immense hardship without any earnings, as their customers, worried about contracting the disease from them or the merchandise, are not agreeing to allow them on their house premises.
Unless the government takes immediate steps to bring them under the coverage of its stimulus package offered for businesses affected by the coronavirus, it will be impossible for them and their dependents to survive trough this year's crisis, they also said.
This correspondent came across Fatema Begum, a widow from Collegepara area in Thakurgaon town, who was carrying two bags filled with merchandise on a street in Hajipara area of the town on a Friday afternoon.
Choking back tears, she said, "As my husband passed away a few months back, I am now the sole breadwinner for my two teenage sons. I don't know how else I would provide for the family."
The family had been struggling financially since the pandemic hit the country last year, when she suffered a loss of about Tk 70 thousand. She had gathered some of the amount as loan from an NGO and the rest was her lifesavings.
Although she had been selling sari and 'three-piece' from door to door for about 15 years, she upheld her dignity by refusing to accept charity from others, Fatema said, adding that she never saw such a time when people did not allow salespeople like her enter their houses.
Another saleswoman, Rahela Begum, from Fakirpara in the town, said she used to go to different houses and make a daily profit between Tk 500 and Tk 1,000 by selling sari, 'three-piece' and bedcover.
But after the Covid-19 broke out, there have been nothing but misery for her and her family as the outbreak caused her lose the capital she invested and rendered her jobless for nearly four months, said the 40-year-old.
Wholesaler Ruma Akhter, from the same area, said about 25 to 30 women used to buy merchandise from her, but now only four or five of them are being able to continue their businesses, but in a very small scale.
Nurul Haque, deputy director of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) in Thakurgaon and also member secretary of 'loan monitoring committee' for small and medium enterprises (SME) in the district, said most of the small-time entrepreneurs could not avail the stimulus announced by the prime minister as they failed to provide relevant documents required by banks.
Under the stimulus package for small-time entrepreneurs or small enterprises in Thakurgaon, an initial allocation of Tk 80 lakh has been approved and depending on its nature of business, an individual or a small enterprise can be disbursed Tk 5 lakh, he added.
As per a decision made in a recent meeting of the 'SME loan monitoring committee', they have asked the banks to relax their requirements for applicants of the stimulus package, said Nur Kutubul Alam, additional deputy commissioner of Thakurgaon.