Nadim Hossain lives in Camp Number 1, Khalishpur in the city of Khulna in Bangladesh. His father, Mr. Hasim, was working in a small pharmacy when he suddenly suffered a heart attack. A doctor advised him he was no longer able to work. Nadim has three siblings and he is the second of his parents’ sons. His elder brother is physically challenged and he has one sister who is of marriageable age, and a younger brother who still at school. After his father’s heart attack, Nadim stopped his own studies and took on the responsibility of supporting his family – he started work at the same pharmacy where his father was working.
From the beginning his job in the little pharmacy paid very poorly. He struggled on his small salary and it was hard to take care of his family. He couldn’t seem to find other ways to increase his income. He regularly tried to convince the pharmacy owner owner to increase his salary and one day the owner suggested he open a pharmacy inside the camp where he lives. He gave this advice some thought and started to think about opening a pharmacy in Camp Number 1. The opening day was the beginning of a new phase in his life. His store was very popular inside the camp but he could but he could barely keep up with the demands of the customers due to shortages of medicine. His problem lay in a lack of capital to make upfront purchases of medicines.
To expand his medicine business he needed to get loan from a banks or a NGO with a micro-finance program, but he couldn’t secure a loan because he had no trade license. One day he went to the City Corporation office and applied for a trade license but his application was rejected by the officials who stated the rejection was because he is a Bihari – a member of the Urdu-speaking Camp community and living in a Bihari Camp.
The Biharis – Urdu-speaking Muslims of eastern India – migrated to Bangladesh (then called East Pakistan) before and during the partition of the Indian subcontinent. During the 1971 war for the independence of Bangladesh, violence committed by and against some Biharis led the Red Cross to create urban settlements – called camps. Today, over 300,000 Biharis remain camp residents in the country.
Then Nadim learned about a camp-based paralegal who could assist him with using his national identity card to access other services and rights. He visited the paralegal center and asked the paralegal, Mohammad Abid, to help him to get a trade license for his pharmacy. Firstly, the paralegal advised Nadim about the process of applying for a trade license. The paralegal also helped Nadim fill in the application form. Then they went to the City Corporation together. The paralegal and client together submitted the application and negotiated with the authority regarding Nadim’s right to a trade license. The paralegal rooted his arguments in the fact that camp dwellers are Bangladeshi citizens, confirmed in a 2008 High Court decision, and that camp residents all have national ID cards so that they can get any kind of civil documents and related services. At last, as a result of this negotiation, Nadim’s application was successfully processed and he got his trade license.
After getting his trade license, Nadim applied for loan from the BRAC Bank and got 1,50,000Tk (one hundred fifty thousand Taka, approximately US $1,900) which he used to expand in his medical supplies to start wholesale and retail medicine selling. Before getting the loan from the bank he earned around 6000Tk (six thousand Taka) a month and now he is earning around taka 15,000Tk per month. Now he is supporting his family and he has opened a deposit account in a bank to save 1000Tk per month for five years. At the end of the five years, Nadim will use the savings to further expand his pharmacy business. Meanwhile his younger brother is continuing with his schooling and young sister has married.