Lockdown Impact: The destitution of the working class people
For the last one month, my maid is living a life of privation and destitution even though my house and maybe some other employers have transferred her March and April salary to her bank account
My maid Usha worked in four-five houses in my colony, doing all the household work like sweeping, mopping, washing dishes and most of all preparing meals twice a day. In the process, she earned around ₹30,000 or more per month, affording her a fairly comfortable life.
But for the last one month, she is living a life of privation and destitution even though my house and maybe some other employers have transferred her March and April salary to her bank account. The poor woman has no debit card and therefore cannot withdraw money from an ATM. She has to come to the Central Bank branch in Gulmohar Park to withdraw money, which is out of bounds for her, since she lives in Faridabad and the border between Delhi and Faridabad stands sealed.
She asked my wife to transfer her salary for this month to our driver’s account, who lives in the same building and is distantly related to her. But the problem is that with the lockdown being extended for the third time, and restrictions on moving around remaining in force, the driver’s services have become dispensable, even though so far, we have been able to afford it. It is not clear how long we could afford a driver, what with nowhere to go and in which case how do we pay the maid whose services will remain indispensable forever?
The driver’s state is dire too, of course. In the days of yore, a driver’s job was coveted and even if a driver failed to find an employer for a while he always had the option to join Ola, Uber or other private taxi service and earn a living even if the income and working hours were not so regular. Today poor Dilip faces a bleak future and we don’t have the heart to dispense with his services in this sad situation, whether we can afford it or not.
The chowkidar in my building is not my employee. He is a caretaker of the builder’s flat not sold out yet. He has a small plot of land at home in western UP. He is paid his salary in cash and goes every month to his home to give money to his wife and children for their sustenance. For two months now, he has not been able to collect his salary because in March he could not find time till March 22 to go out to collect his salary and travel home.
Then suddenly the lockdown began and the poor man is stuck now. Nor can his employer come to meet him either. So he has to make do with small borrowings, just to tide over this crisis. However he keeps wondering how long this crisis would last. He has a plot of agriculture land, which is not very big but can sustain his family members in times of crisis.
But the unseasonal rains have ruined his wheat crop and he is naturally concerned how his family is surviving without money and with alternative sources of income too dried up. This is the story of helps in just one household. Lakhs of such maids, drivers and chowkidars are facing the same state of impoverishment all over the country thanks to the callous attitude of this government.
As for the migrant labour, after more than a month of holding them by force from going back to their villages, hundreds and thousands of kilometers away, the government finally decided to allow them homeward journey, after over 300 deaths among those who chose to walk or pedal back all the way from Surat, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ludhiana to somewhere in Darbhanga, or Ranchi or Indore or Bhopal.
But ironically, the poor who are left with no money, are now being asked to pay for their rail/bus ticket and at a higher rate than normal. There is no shame, leave alone compassion or concern for these unfortunate citi- zens of India.