Another Covid-19 lockdown and we will be destroyed, say unorganised sector workers

The looming prospect of a lockdown is also driving several migrant workers homewards
Last Updated 18 April 2021, 21:23 IST

Workers in the unorganised sectors, badly hit by last year’s lockdown, are anxious over the prospect of the severe restrictions returning again due to the alarming increase in Covid-19 cases.

Should the government choose to impose another lockdown, it will rob away their livelihoods.

DH spoke to a cross-section of workers from the unorganised sectors who told us that they are only barely recovering from the devastating impacts of last year’s lockdown.

Workers who spoke to us include daily wagers, those employed in small scale industries and garment factories, street vendors and other such unorganised sectors.

Prathiba, president of the Karnataka Garment and Textile Workers Union, said workers in her industry strongly oppose the lockdown.

Read more: Localised lockdowns, closure of malls impacting business, employment in organised retail, says SCAI

“There are about 4 lakh garment workers in the state and 85% of them are women. They all earn just Rs 8,000 per month and usually don’t have any savings,” she said, pointing to a recent study that revealed 10,000 garment workers lost their jobs. “If the government declares a lockdown, it should ensure that these workers are regularly paid from the exchequer.”

Memories still fresh

The looming prospect of a lockdown is also driving several migrant workers homewards as memories of their struggle last year are still fresh.

Manjunath Kamble, president of the labour cell, said migrant workers who predominantly work in the construction sector are already leaving big cities, too scared that they could be caught in the lockdown once again.

“The government promised Rs 5,000 for migrant workers during last year’s lockdown, but more than 80% of them did not get anything,” Kamble said, adding that labourers should be given food kits and temporary shelters, besides financial compensation, if the government declares another lockdown.

Thousands of street vendors in Bengaluru are scared that the second lockdown would crush their businesses.

North Bengaluru vegetable vendors Muniyamma and Ramegowda said their earnings did not recover since last year and they shudder to think of one more lockdown. “What are we to do if even the Rs 200-300 we earn per day is also gone?” the couple fret.

Mohammad Shabaz, who sells tender coconuts on the footpaths of Vidyaranyapura, has six children and his wife to manage with his meagre income. “I need a minimum of Rs 500 a day,” he said. “How am I to earn without coming here (to the footpath) and selling coconuts? After all, this is my livelihood.”

The government is yet to declare any relief or compensation for the vendors.

Lockdown or no lockdown, these vendors are hoping that people in power would still give them some money as existing restrictions have hit them badly enough.

(Published 18 April 2021, 19:03 IST)

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