Livelihoods at stake for workers under lockdown

A 46-year-old Reeyaz Mohammed paddles his empty cart through the deserted streets of Patna, in hope of some meagre job. As the Covid-19 pandemic has forced everyone to stay indoors, it is people like Reeyaz who are the worst hit. Since 24 March, businesses have shut down, construction sites have been abandoned and lakhs have lost their jobs as housing societies have closed their gates on everyone, except residents. Earlier, Reeyaz used to sustain his family of eight by transporting vegetables between the local mandi and market on his cart and earning around Rs 800 on a daily basis. But now, his hopes of earning a living through his cart have dashed and he is on the lookout for someone distributing food. Sitting by his thatched accommodation in Kamla Nehru Nagar behind the Patna Club, he laments the loss of his livelihood, “I have to deposit Rs 60 every day as the rent of my cart.

With me getting no work, I will lose that too. I have a family to feed and I don’t want to beg for food, but everyone stays indoors these days. My savings have vanished and my family is forced to survive on the free food distributed by the state government.” Reeyaz is not a case in isolation. The government help is not enough to sustain the vast numbers of unskilled and skilled labourers and an extension of such a situation will result in further suffering for him and any others. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday allowed the movement of migrant workers, tourists, students and others stranded at various places. The government has issued an order to states and union territories to facilitate inter-state movement of stranded people including migrant labourers in the country. All persons to be medically screened at source and destination, and kept in home or institutional quarantine on arrival, as per the guidelines.

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