Amid COVID-19 Crisis, Unemployment and Hunger Stare at Kanpur Slum

For the people of Rakhi Mandi, the political fracas is something that they have witnessed since years.

My Report
4 min read
Rakhi Mandi is one of the oldest slums of Kanpur.

In India's big COVID brawl, the government has announced free ration to all the ration card holders but the ground reality was entirely different when I reached to a colony of labourers and daily wage workers in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Rakhi Mandi is one of the oldest slums of Kanpur located on a landfill site next to a busy railway line. Here, residents are of unofficial settlements and lack the legal rights to build permanent houses of their own. Though Rakhi Mandi has not witnessed any coronavirus cases yet, they are occupied by umpteen other problems which contribute to one's survival.

For the people of Rakhi Mandi, the political fracas is something that they have witnessed since years.

Nothing mattered to them until the pandemic came into their lives and since then their life has been exposed to brutal havoc and the apparent politics that has left them helpless.

“We all got excited and crowded the ration van when it came to our locality for the first time. But, we were yelled by the driver who asked us to go back to our homes and wait there. We kept on waiting but no ration came to our house.”

Rekha’s husband is a daily wage worker, who picks coal to deliver to hotels in the city. Raising four kids is a tough job for Rekha and is getting tougher by the day as the COVID crisis tightens its grip over the country. She dreams that her daughter, who is very fond of dancing, goes to a dance reality show. With all her savings exhausted, her kids sleep hungry every night.

Semi-pucca homes in Rekha Mandi. 
Semi-pucca homes in Rekha Mandi. 
(Photo Courtesy: Hemanshi Tewari)

Rekha’s husband tells me the problems in free ration schemes of the government.

“Even though we get free ration when we go to ration shops, mostly they are out of stock since any ration card holder can buy free ration in bulk and every cardholder is not poor.”

Job Loss

In the interiors of the slum, I spoke with people I saw standing on either side of a nullah.

Asaaram, who is a sweeper, was sitting on one side of the road, wailing.

“Initially, few NGO’s came and gave us ration packets but the food is one among many other things that are required daily. How will we buy those kinds of stuff?”

The virus has made his life miserable as now people have become more conscious and seldom allow house-help to enter their homes.

Ration being distributed.
Ration being distributed.
(Photo Courtesy: Hemanshi Tewari)

Job loss in this prevailing pandemic has become one of the foremost issues globally.

Like the majority of our population, people of Rakhi Mandi have no alternatives left. Arvind, who has a responsibility to feed five members of his family, has been left shattered.

“When everything is well, everyone is with you. Times change, people change. I worked as a peon in a company for 10 years. They stopped giving me my salary since the beginning of the lockdown. All my savings are now finished. God knows till when we can survive.”

Arvind is not the only one who has lost his job. Everyday, people like Arvind sit near a shop in their area with a hope that someone would employ them for menial work. The repercussions of the virus are far more than one can ever think of.

‘What About Our Children?’

As with everything else, the uncertainty over the future of their children is adding to the misery of Rekha Mandi’s residents. A rickshaw-puller Tej Bahadur says as he sits with gloomy eyes besides his 10-year-old son,

“If at all we can survive this pandemic with meagre savings that we had, what will be left for my son? I don’t want him to pull a rickshaw for his whole life like me. I saved for his education so that he can become an officer. It seems that our misery would never end.”

For the children in Rakhi Mandi, whenever their father goes out they are filled with hopes of their fathers returning with ration essentials, which repeatedly diminish when they return with empty hands.

The residents of Rakhi Mandi broke down while telling their woes as it is very difficult to survive in this time of global crisis and the political prejudices just add to it.

Kamla crumbled while narrating how she has been living for almost two months without work. The politics over ration pushes her to more darkness in these tough times.

Residents stand in line for ration.
Residents stand in line for ration.
(Photo Courtesy: Hemanshi Tewari)

“Some people in our area are linked to certain political parties. These big ration vans come and deliver free ration to those 2-3 houses only. What is our fault?,” she asks.

Rakhi Mandi’s agony is an example of the persisting problems in several other areas. As the vulnerable population is suffering every day, the loopholes in our system have become more evident. For how long will the powerful enjoy their power and the poor will curse their fate?

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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