Lucknow: Late on Friday night, 21-year-old Sameer returned to Lucknow from New Delhi due to a virtual lockdown in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sameer is a daily-wage worker from Bahraich who had been working in Delhi for two years. Sameer looked worried and was in a hurry to catch any vehicle to reach Bahraich. Many youths from his village also work in the city.
Sameer is scared due to the outbreak of coronavirus, he fell ill just last week. “My doctor told me that I have few symptoms of the virus. However, he said that there is nothing to worry about that I was fine now. I am returning to Bahraich because no one wants to risk their life,” he told NewsClick.
Thousands of laborers in Lucknow were seen struggling to return to their villages in the wee hours of Saturday, owing to the scare.
Vidya Sagar, another labourer from Faizabad, has returned from Indore citing the scare. “I have read on WhatsApp that this disease will kill half the people in the world. I am worried for myself because my elderly parents, wife and kids are dependent on me. I had high chances of contracting the infection while staying in the city,” he said.
Vidya Sagar said he had braced himself for a lockdown by bringing all his savings. However, if a lockdown persists for more than two weeks, the decision may come back to bite him.
“I have brought Rs 4000 which I saved for an emergency. I think this is enough money to keep things going for two weeks. But in case the situation persists, I will have to look for work in the city to at least provide food for the family,” he said.
Welcoming Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s announcement to compensate the registered daily wagers in the state, he said that it was good that registered labout was being taken care of “but there are lakhs of unregistered workers who work in other states and some provision should have also been taken for them.”
The government of Uttar Pradesh announced a relief package for 1.65 crore families of daily wagers (categorised). They will be provided with one month of ration and a pension of Rs 1,000 per month.
Problem for Un-categorised workers
Rahul Kumar, a mason, who is not registered with the labour department or municipal corporation said he is worried about life coming to a standstill due to this pandemic.
“I do not know how I will feed my family and how things will be at home. My wife expects me to return with milk and vegetables in the evening but for the last three days I could not get any work for myself. I am running out of my savings,” he said, adding that the couple was arguing about it. “She remains worried for our kids as she is at home and feeds them,” he added.
Rahul said that the government should have also kept people like him in mind; those who are neither registered nor are have a ration card for below poverty line (BPL) citizens.
Seema Rana, an activist associated with the All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) demanded that the government includes even the domestic help and non-registered labourers.
“The government should ensure that these labourers get masks and sanitisers at subsidized rates and it should also ensure that no misinformation or panic spreads among them because they cannot verify every piece of information they receive. People like fall for fake news and this is a very crucial time to avoid such a situation,” she said. “The government should also appeal to citizens to give their domestic help a paid leave and tell them about the coronavirus,” she added.
Repeated requests to the Labour Department for a quote went unheeded.