Informal sector workers in Delhi suffer amid prolonged lockdown

Published : May 08, 2020 00:00 IST

People wait for distribution of free food during the extended lockdown in New Delhi on May 4. Photo: Manish Swarup/AP

With Delhi in the third phase of a prolonged lockdown, wherein it has relaxed some restrictions on the movement of individuals, the situation has turned dire for informal sector workers.

Many women in slums, who used to make earthen toys for a living, thronged a marketplace in south Delhi. Out of work for more than 40 days, they were forced to beg in order to survive.

They queued up for dal-rice that some people brought sometimes and begging was just an extension of that destitution, they said.

Ab kya karen (what can we do?). No one wants to buy toys from us in this sickness. Somebody gave us rations on which we survived for some days, but now it is over. We haven’t had tea and the children milk in a long time. If you give us some money, we will buy it,” they said.

Street children at the Nizamuddin Railway Station, who were subsisting on the random kindness of strangers who brought them meals at irregular intervals, also complained of not getting tea to drink.

“The problem comes when people think it is enough to give the bare minimum to the poor to keep them alive and the quality does not matter. Could you live on one meal a day of dal-rice for 40 days?” said a relief volunteer who did not want to be named.

Several reports said that the food being provided to migrant workers by governments was bad. Workers in Jhajjar, Punjab, complained that the food was unfit even for animals. A video of migrants on a train throwing away food on the platform in Asansol went viral.

According to Housing and Land Rights Network, a non-government organisation, some 338 people have died of causes related to the lockdown.

Several experts warned that the consequences of a stringent lockdown for most of the country’s economically vulnerable population could be severe in the absence of a rescue plan. There are about 40 crore informal sector workers in the country.

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