Despite Economic Package, Lucknow’s Street Vendors Barely Sustain
As the number of coronavirus infected patients increase, the future of Lucknow’s local vendors remains uncertain.
As some may have taken well to the government’s decision of uplifting the nationwide lockdown, hoping to enjoy their favourite meal at a desired restaurant or meeting their friends, there is a section of people who reckon that it’s about future survival.
This global pandemic has exposed how unorganised the lives of informal workers are. Before the government declared its economic package, workers already adhered to the atmanirbhar life.
With shutters down for more than 70 days, Pinky, a local vendor selling roasted corn at Balaganj Circle, Lucknow, was left with only one source of monetary supply till that was stopped, too.
The cash for nutrition scheme which provided her sustenance worth Rs 500 per month, mandated for her tuberculosis-symptomatic daughter, was stopped a while ago.
“From the past four months, I have not received any money. Till February, the amount was credited to my daughter-in-law’s account, but now, I don’t know what happened,” said the mother of three who hails from Bharavan, a village in Uttar Pradesh.
Overburdened doctors and administration have a priority to attend coronavirus patients, leaving unaccounted bones of the economy on their own.
“I visited the hospital to ask for the same but did not find the doctor. This time I will make sure I meet him.”Pinky
‘Wearing Mask Becomes Unbearable’
Her husband, as a daily wage labourer, has been going in search of work for more than five days only to return with hope to find something the next day. With nearly 42-degree Celsius temperature, Pinky struggles to put a mask all-time against burning coal.
“Putting mask has proved to be effective in sales but at the same time it is unbearable. Sitting under the sun along with continuous pouring of heat is hard,” she said.
The police is busy charging fines in the absence of masks and for flouting other norms. In the same area, four male officers were seen sitting in a police car without a mask on each of their faces. They were seen roaming in the open market and then settled in the car. Within 100 meters, other police officials had put a strict checking mechanism and were slapping fines on rule-breakers.
“They tell us to wear masks, but then what do they do? I understand the heat doesn’t allow us but this should be understood to them too. We are also human,” said Kamlesh, a street vendor selling sweets.
“Markets are down. It’s hard to make a sale of Rs 100 these days, let alone a profit.” Kamlesh hails from Bahraich and has a helping hand to which he pays daily. “I thought with the mask on, customers would come but it was a miscalculation.”
Many had questions for government, including a 39-year-old mother. “It seems to me there is no government at all, I heard of Rs 20 lakh crore package, I didn’t get a single penny,” said Mala (name changed) who sells packaged water.
Mala fetches water from a nearby established public submersible, buys polythene to make pouches, arranges ice with leftover money to sell cheap cold water for commuters.
As the number of coronavirus infected patients increase, the future of Lucknow’s local vendors remains uncertain. A slump in demand and surge in precaution has led the unorganised workers in the deep-end.
They say they have to abide by rules and also make sales to support their living. With this arrangement, only one thing holds them up: To see there is light despite all of the darkness.
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