Jon Haat: a place for hiring farm workers
The demand for day labourers is considerably high in Faridpur as farms in the major crop producing region require the assistance of seasonal workers whenever the harvest period comes around.
As such, people from all over Bangladesh regularly visit Jon Haat, a market in Faridpur city where day labourers gather in search of work throughout the year.
However, the market becomes most lively during the jute harvesting season, which is ongoing with farmers now busy reaping and retting the crop.
The market, located along the Dhaka-Barishal highway, is situated on 30 decimals of land on the south side of Haji Shariatullah Bazar in the Golchamot area of Faridpur city.
Faridpur and its adjoining districts, namely Rajbari, Madaripur, Gopalganj and Shariatpur, have long been pioneers in producing crops, according to locals and officials of Jon Haat.
This led to the establishment of Jon Haat more than 50 years ago to facilitate the supply of day labourers in the region, they said.
During a visit to the market, this correspondent saw that it was full of day labourers searching for agricultural work.
The people who come to hire these labourers discuss the different types of work involved before reaching a price for their services.
After striking an agreement, employers have to pay Tk 10 for each worker to the market authority.
The authority then takes down the full name, address and contact information of the employer and hired labourers before approving their contract, which specifies the daily rate and duration for work.
Sabur Ali, a native of Pirpurkella village in Damuda upazila of Chuadanga, said he first came to the market seven days ago and was hired by a farm in the Gopalpur area of Faridpur sadar upazila.
"I and two others who came with me worked at that farm for the past week, earning Tk 700 per day as well as three meals daily," he added.
Asked why they would travel so far for work, Ali said there is less work available in Chuadanga.
"Besides, I would get just Tk 300 per day for work in my hometown. So, the money I earn in a week in Faridpur cannot be eclipsed by even a month of work back home," he added.
Momen Molla, one of the others who came with Ali, said he was able to send home Tk 4,000 after working for just one week.
Md Zahangir Hossain, who hails from Billmalni village in Bagmara upazila of Rajshahi, said he has been regularly visiting Jon Haat for the past two years.
"In Faridpur, I can earn up to Tk 20,000 per month after meeting expenses while it is not possible to get more than Tk 5,000 back home," he added.
Shabbir Ahmed, an SSC examinee who lives in the Baghabari Ghat area in Shahjadpur upazila of Sirajganj, said he came to the market in search of work to help sustain his family.
"We have six members in our family. So, it is difficult for my father to run it alone. I came to Jon Haat four days ago and have worked at a farm in Bhanga upazila ever since," he said.
"But as that contract has expired, I came looking for work again today," Ahmed added.
Shafikul Mridha, an employer based in Maligram village of Bhanga upazila, said he hires workers from the market with a daily rate of Tk 800 to Tk 1,000 per person for every jute harvesting season.
Abu Sikdar, an employer from Muksudpur upazila of Gopalganj, said he comes to Jon Haat in search of labourers as there is a manpower shortage in his area.
"I have to cut about five bighas of jute. So, I am taking five people and it will take up to 12 days to complete the work," he added.
The market has also created a source of earning for others as at least 50 shops have been set up nearby.
Other than food and drink items, a number of these shops sell agricultural equipment, such as sickles.
Obaidur Sheikh, a local who sells agricultural equipment, said he can earn about Tk 600 to Tk 700 daily.
Abul Kalam Sheikh, in-charge of the market, said people from Faridpur, Gopalganj, Madaripur, Rajbari and other districts come daily to hire workers or sell their services.
"But sometimes it is seen that workers are mistreated and do not get money. In such cases, we talk to the employers and collect the money," he added.