www.medium.com | June 14, 2020
In the wake of COVID-19 lockdown, government authorities, local administration and NGOs are working to address the pressing need for distribution of ration and protecting the livelihood of the informal workers along with the unorganized sector of workers. Nevertheless, our ongoing survey, which was aimed at assessing the impact of lockdown on migrant workers painted an all-together different picture in Someshwarwadi, Pashan, Pune. The resident migrant workers, many of whom moved to Pune more than a decade ago, fully understand the significance of the lockdown. They mentioned receiving food packets and distribution of ration once in a while by a few NGOs. The residents helplessly demand regular food supply or ration distribution so that they can have at least one full meal in a day. The lockdown has led to either loss of job or loss of income which has led to a high level of distress and financial instability. Our in-depth interviews revealed how the lockdown exposed the socio-economic, and emotional vulnerability of the residents. Here we narrate the stories of four distinct resident migrants; who despite their distinctness, spoke the same language of neglect, suffering, and financial deprivation.
Chawl in Someshwarwadi, Pune
Sunita, 24 years old homemaker from Jaunpur (UP) migrated to Pune four years back after her marriage. She has a nine-month-old son and is pregnant for four months. Her husband lost his job due to the lockdown leading to no income for the last two months. The family is surviving on meagre savings. The supply of food and essentials is infrequent and unpredictable making her struggle every single day to get a glass of milk for her son. The struggle intensifies further as the family does not have enough money to buy packaged milk. In her words, “I am borrowing milk from a near-by cow-shed for my son, I am embarrassed to tell them that I shall pay later because I don’t know when I can pay!” Sunita seemed anxious and expressed worry about her health. Due to lack of basic nutrition essential to sustain a healthy pregnancy, she has to cope with health issues such as low energy, headache, and giddiness. Sunita is not able to visit the doctor for her routine antenatal checkups. She mentions that the nearby government hospital is closed due to lockdown, putting her and her baby’s health in jeopardy. The lockdown and furthermore absence of relief aid from local authorities have left Sunita and her family in a depressive state and with very little hope.
Bidya, 50 years old, came to Pune from Jaunpur (UP) 20 years back, almost feels at home here. Bidya is the sole earner in the family. She assertively said, “I work as a house-maid in three homes and fetch quite a good salary every month and also take care of my ailing husband”. Her husband worked as a security guard, met with an accident and had a severe leg injury. She sadly expressed that “He is incapable of any work for the last 15 years. Our two children don’t stay with us and I have no support from them.” She is grappling with the most common lockdown hardships like lack of food and loss of income, but her major concern was buying medicines for her husband privately. Out of three jobs, she got paid only for one of her jobs, had no savings and was dependent on the government hospital for providing medicines free of cost. Bidya is left with no choice but to borrow money from relatives and acquaintances. Whether to utilize the borrowed money for buying food supplies or medicines is a tough choice she has to make.
For a young restaurant cook Deepak from Samastipur (Bihar), the impact of lockdown has been quite severe. Things seemed to fall in place before lockdown as he worked tirelessly in a restaurant near-by and earned around 16,000 per month. The restaurant business is totally shut down since the lockdown. Deepak has received no payment for the last two months. He has a one-year-old son, a wife who is a homemaker and an elderly father to take care of. Catering to his toddler’s needs and paying the monthly rent (Rs.2800) for his house are the worries that give Deepak sleepless nights. Distressed Deepak said “How can I cope with this financial loss? With no relief packages coming our way, how are we supposed to manage?” Having a specific skill set of cooking, Deepak is primarily dependent on the restaurants to open so that he can resume work.
For a native Maharashtrian Namdeo Bhonsle, the situation is no better. Originally from Sangli, this 50 year old construction supervisor is confined to home with no job. He worked for a construction company in Bhugaon, but has now lost his job due to some conflict between his contractor and the builder. He talked with a heavy heart “Even before lockdown, I did not get paid for my work, in the current situation I have lost hope that I will get any job soon. How should I survive, what should I do? I am the sole earner in the family, my son is well-educated but does not work.” In spite of staying in Pune for 23 years, his struggle to get a ration card has not ceased. He described his inability to overcome bureaucratic hurdles in getting a ration card on his current address. With no food supplies, no savings, no helping hand, Namdeo anticipates financial insecurity and emotional instability in his future.
When woven together, these stories blanket resident migrants’ socio-economic and psychological distress stemming from the on-going effects of the lockdown. These four distinct yet similar stories represent only the tip of the iceberg. The resident migrants appeal to the concerned local authorities and administrators to view their heart-wrenching stories as lessons to be learnt and areas to be acted upon.
-Prof. Shivakumar Jolad, Associate Professor - Public Policy
-Prof. Shalaka Shah, Assistant Professor - Psychology