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Stay Indoors, Save the Poor from Lockdown & Pandemic

Never-ending fragility has again gripped the poor section of the society as the second wave of coronavirus has hit India. The hard lockdown period of 2020 resulted in a stressful environment for the labour markets. The pandemic brought an economic crisis leaving lakhs to their fate for making ends meet. Desperation to manage food and money for the family left many labourers highly indebted.

The lockdown led to the closure of industrial and manufacturing units which caused an acute fall in employment. Coupled with the panic of an unknown disease, most workers chose to move back to their native places along with their children and elderly. The sole breadwinners of the families were left in the lurch with no security whatsoever. One cannot fathom the challenges faced by daily wagers during such tough times. The section that normally lives on margins became even more vulnerable. A macro picture of India’s labour markets was presented by various lockdowns imposed in 2020.

As per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), January-March 2020, urban casual labourers account for 11.2 per cent of the pan-India urban workforce. A major chunk of this 11.2 per cent was badly hit by the pandemic. Around 63.19 lakh stranded migrant workers travelled to their native places through Shramik Special trains from May-August 2020. Coronavirus induced lockdown exposed the unregulated employment in informal sectors.

All of us are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic but at least we have the opportunity to work from home and earn for our families. The situation is grim for daily wagers who cannot even afford the essentials. These people have to work for the entire day to earn enough to make ends meet. If we choose to stay indoors and break the chain of coronavirus, we can save the underprivileged section of our society. The complete lockdown will not be imposed and daily wagers can work and survive this second wave.

The plight of street vendors and daily wagers is critical and demands immediate attention. They are going through grief, anxiety and financial distress all at the same time. Uncertainty has forced many employers to lay off workers with no assurance of absorbing them again. We can help domestic workers, drivers, street vendors and other utility workers only by staying indoors.

On one hand, daily wagers have little understanding of coronavirus & social-distancing norms and on the other, even if they follow all protocols and save themselves from getting infected, they might die of hunger.

Several non-profit organisations helped the poor during previous lockdown with donations. Indeed, donations can help the poor but for how long? We cannot procure enough food to help all daily wagers but we can stop this spread from turning into a humanitarian crisis again just by staying at home. It is better to make the environment safe enough so that they can fend for themselves even in the situation of reduced demand. Their jobs and means of livelihood also deserve a sense of security hence needs to be treated in a dignified manner. Staying indoors can help them to regulate their revenue stream and earn for their families respectfully.

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Hardeep Bali