We poor people cannot sit at home, India’s millions of daily wagers say

Daily wagers are some of the worst hit by the shutdowns enforced by pandemic controlling lockdown in the country. Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

Saher Hiba Khan

With the announcement of Lockdown in India till 14th April by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created an atmosphere of panic. And the worst people to be hit by the lockdown will be the daily wagers.

If people of India may get saved from the Virus but what about the financial virus that will hit them, the question remains.

Prime Minister announced that the centre has approved Rs 15,000 crore-package to strengthen the Health Structure but what about those who have to go out everyday for their wages including the people who work at factories, the labourers, the rickshawpullers, the mechanics etc.

More than fifty thousand daily wage workers and migrant labourers in southern states and Gujarat, travelled all through Tuesday night on foot and by other means of transport to reach their shelters on Wednesday afternoon, immediately after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announed a 21-day lockdown as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus.

“The rural areas of North India don’t get to avail basic needs, healthcare especially under normal “Indian” circumstances. Now what will happen from tomorrow? He is initiating loot and more graveyards,” research scholar Neha Yadav asks.

“Be it floods, communal violence, or the outbreak of an epidemic, media houses don’t care much for states like Uttar pradesh and Bihar. Especially Bihar. How marginalized people in these states are coping with it, along with government’s apathy, this never becomes mainstream news. And now in the wake of coronavirus too the same is happening,” she added.

Unskilled and semi-skilled migrant labourers are some of the worst hit by the shutdowns enforced by pandemic controlling lockdown in the country.

The Global pandemic since its outbreak has killed more than 16,000 people worldwide. With its rapid spreading, most of the countries have ordered a strict lockdown. This has effected the World Economy at its worst.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to roll out emergency welfare measures for construction workers and those in the unorganised sector due to the ongoing lockdown.

In her letter dated March 23, Sonia pointed out that the construction industry employed more than 44 million people in India.

“We don’t have work and live together in large numbers which means the risk of disease spreading fast among us should anyone get infected is very high,’’ Ratan Yadav who hails from Bihar and works in Delhi told Maktoob.

He added that their mobility is severely affected but ‘we poor people cannot sit at home.”

“How can a 21-day coronavirus lockdown starting midnight be announced four hours prior in a country with massive poverty and millions of daily wage earners, with no protection guaranteed for the poor, the homeless and the vulnerable? There never was a more cruel government,” journalist Nadim Asrar wrote in facebook.

The Coronavirus shock is severe even compared to the Great Financial Crisis in 2007-8 as said by IMF.

The Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan says, “The big unknowns are how long will it take to get the virus in control, how much GDP will be impacted and how much can be recovered when the precautionary measures are removed.”

Mr. Rajan also said there will be double-digit drop in global GDP due to Coronavirus.

His advice for the Indian Economy was that, “We need to burn bridges between now and then.The people who will suffer are the most vulnerable (the poor, the migrants). we need to provide money for them so that over the period of shutdown they can keep body and soul together.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs has recently uploaded guidelines for the 21-day lockdown announcing which essential services will remain open.

The Janta Curfew on 22nd March was a smash in the face of social distancing. Memes, jokes and videos are being circulated online show how people in groups are dancing and banging plates and dhols making fun of the appeal by Prime Minister. What Prime Minister had asked was to basically thank and be grateful to the Doctors, Nurses, the Middlemen and the Police who are risking their lives for the safety of everyone. But the plan jumped straight out the window and died.

Saher Hiba Khan
Saher Hiba Khan
Saher Hiba Khan is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi and she studies English literature at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.


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