We all are aware of how the coronavirus crisis is making the world hit the reset button. It has badly impacted businesses, work, and most importantly, the lives of the people. In the second address of the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a major announcement about the complete lockdown across the country to stop the spread of the virus. During his address the PM said that this is a necessary step to fight the pandemic and emphasized social distancing.
While everyone is eagerly waiting for the lockdown to be lifted, there is a constant worry within some sections of the society. The unorganized sector, that constitutes the majority of the population in the country — has developed into a nagging fear. Workers from the unorganized sector have been facing problems due to the lockdown. Thousands of migrant workers scrambled to return from cities to their homes in states like Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, and UP. Many feeling helpless in the situation with no food and money decided to walk kilometers in the desire to reach home while all kinds of transportation were shut down.
The thing to consider here is that the majority of India’s workforce i.e. 93% works in the informal/unorganized sector. This sector has a big hand in running the country’s economy but is the most hit by the crisis. Although the government ensured that the poor will not face any difficulties during the lockdown, no specific measures were announced to protect them.
Where survival after the lockdown is a big question, let’s look at some of the badly affected professions in the unorganized sector.
Barbers: Keeping the current situation in mind, people are making a virtue out of necessity. As salons and barbershops remain close, many are experimenting with hairdressing on their own. They are posting pictures on social media of themselves trimming their hair or getting a haircut at home.
When social distancing will be expected to be maintained even after the lockdown, the barber community, in particular, will suffer the most, as their work is done in close proximity to the customers. This goes to prove that street-side barbers or the ones in the salons will lose their jobs with no clients turning up for their services.
Street-food vendors: Street vendors selling delicacies for ages and earning their livelihood had witnessed the worst hit by the lockdown. With people confined indoors, they suddenly found themselves out of work. The dreams of many people who were hooked and loved to eat street food have been spoilt with the pandemic.
Even post lockdown, the majority of the population will be hesitant to eat from outside or from the street-food vendors as earlier due to the fear of getting infected. Maintaining social distance will prevent people from indulging in local delicacies in the streets. This is going to have a huge impact on the street-food vendors.
Daily-wage workers: While some of the migrant laborers, who used to work in buildings, factories and garages have migrated due to the shutting down of companies and shops, a bunch of them still remain stranded, jobless, and far away from their homes. The lockdown gave them little time to prepare for the consequences.
From contract workers to daily wage earners, a significant number of them are migrants and have seen a sharp drop in their earnings. Due to the mounting threat, even after the lockdown lifts, the earnings of daily-wage earners, construction workers, headload workers that work in and around every pavement, sidewalk, flyover, railway station, bus stop, and office location are going to face a halt in their earnings.
Laundry workers: This section of the unorganized sectors are the victims of the financial crisis triggered by the lockdown. They earned their livelihood by offering laundry and ironing services. Due to the panic-stricken situation people refuse to send their clothes for laundry. The workers themselves are under fear and threat of the infection. They have had no work during the lockdown and they might continue to be out of work once the lockdown is lifted. Laundry workers are going through a very rough patch, and might eventually lose their jobs at the hands of this calamity.
Vehicle drivers: With the restriction in movement of the vehicles, cab drivers, auto-rickshaw drivers are facing severe losses. Their daily incomes were based on picking up and dropping off passengers individually on or on a sharing basis. With the impact of a pandemic on people to maintain distance, they are going to prefer private vehicles for safer travel rather than sharing cabs and autos. It is going to be a challenge for the vehicle drivers to earn a livelihood even after the lockdown is lifted, while some are likely to lose their jobs.
A large proportion of the households in India are facing the brunt of this lockdown. It is worse than demonetization where the only challenge was to withdraw money. While in the pandemic people are denied an opportunity to earn a livelihood. People working in the informal sector do not have a lot of savings and are largely dependent on daily wages. These are the kind of jobs that cannot be done from home; hence the lockdown has had much more effect on them than on people working in the organized sector who are getting their salaries and can work from home.
The cost of maintaining social distance is higher for them than for anybody else. The right thing would have been to compensate them for sitting at home and not moving out. Money could have been provided through a bank account now that everyone has their Aadhar cards. The important thing is not to just provide money but also to ensure that the distribution of basic necessities is not lacking.
Many of the social workers and NGOs, who are closely associated with the unorganized sector, have been providing basic amenities door to door. We can easily identify that there is immediate worry within people to have enough stock for all the basic necessities especially food and medicine till the lockdown is lifted and just imagine how much more difficult it would be for the less privileged section on the same account.
Contributed By- Alvina Zeba Begum, Content Writer @Mitti Ke Rang
At Mitti Ke Rang, we started with a COVID-19 community support fundraising, as an emergency response to provide a safety net to families. This will help them survive in the lockdown period. We aim to directly support these families by providing a minimum wage, through transferring the same into their accounts or partner with local NGO, Organisation, Fellow or a Volunteer, and support them with groceries.
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