The lockdown imposed to control the spread of COVID-19 has impacted the livelihoods of several people, including the staff that works in our colleges.
“I’ve been sitting at home for months and so has my family, we have no idea what to do” says Savitri Ji, when asked about how this period of Lockdown has treated her. Before the lockdown, she used to work as a security guard at Hansraj College in the University of Delhi, a position she says has been “put on hold” but means that it’s as good as being fired.
The Government of India put the entire country under a severe lockdown back in March, in an attempt to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, this lockdown, while being somewhat successful in slowing down the spread of the virus (debatable), created a situation where anything deemed non-essential was shut down. This shutting down led to a situation where people were unable to go for jobs and employers were unable to pay, and a lot of people, especially those from lower-income groups, suffered greatly.
Savitri Ji, like countless others, is someone whose income has been affected significantly due to the lockdown, to the point where there is uncertainty about where they’ll even get their meals from.
“We work on a contract, we were just told that we won’t be paid anything and we shouldn’t come on duty. What little I get is from a pension, but it has become increasingly hard to function with that limited amount also,”Savitri Ji says.
“We used to work for eight hours daily in the heat. Others from the college are Government employees, they’re being taken care of, but what about us? We’re not asking to be paid in entirety, but if we’re on hold, as they say, we should be given at least something to get by?”she adds.
Mishra Ji, a server at the Hansraj College Cafetaria, says “I came to my village for the Holi break, I’m glad I did. The situation’s significantly better here, and thankfully, I have been able to get by.” On being asked if he had received any sort of assistance or guidance from college, he says “Since I haven’t gone on duty also, I don’t think there will be any payment. For now, I will continue to be here, I will see how everything works out when I go back.” He reiterates that he does not expect financial assistance for now since he has not gone for duty and is doing fine, but will see how things work out when he goes back to Delhi.
These incidents are not just isolated incidents of people’s struggles, they bring up some very important questions. Firstly, while the small scale private sector’s inability to pay it’s employees is understandable, why is it that employees from educational institutions and those owned by the Government are unable to receive even a basic amount to help them get by? Is it not important for these institutions to look after their employees, especially those who are the most vulnerable at the moment? How helpful are the Government’s cash and food availability schemes?
Featured Image Credits: Irfan Bhaiya’s image by Ramakrishnan, SRCC, DU
Khush Vardhan Dembla
To read the Hindi translation of this piece, click here.