COVID-19 Second Wave: Narratives from the Ground
The pandemic created a global health crisis, and while everyone has been affected in some way, the challenges were compounded manifold for marginalised people. Daily wage workers, who struggle to put a roof over their heads and two meals a day on their plates, did not have the luxury of staying indoors or working from home.
Manoj Hasanda (popularly known as Sunny) who lives near Tilak Bridge in Dadar, Mumbai, has struggled a lot during this pandemic. He is the sole earning member of his family, which includes his wife, 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. They have been living in Mumbai for the past 15 years. The responsibility to provide lies literally on his shoulders as he works as a coolie (हमाली) in the trains. With the trains being halted, and unable to find other work, Manoj has not been able to earn money since the first lockdown. Between the first and second waves, he was barely able to find work for 15–20 days, before new restrictions were put in place.
पहले का जैसा था, वैसा ही फिर से हो गया … हम कर्ज़ा लेके चला रहे है, और कितने दिन ऐसे करेंगे?
It has become like how it was before…we are taking loans to survive. For how many days will we do this?
Forced to stay inside their house, with no means of livelihood, his family’s conditions started to deteriorate. Manoj shared his views on the ration shops set up by the government to provide food at minimal rates. ‘They only give rice and wheat, how are we supposed to survive only on rice and wheat? They should also provide us with all types of basic food like sugar, tea leaves, oil, dal and give us kerosene to cook. For now we have to cook on firewood’. Lack of nutritional food and cooking over firewood can increase health issues and lower immunity, which has more adverse effects during a pandemic. Manoj also hasn’t been able to admit his children in schools.
In the first wave of the lockdown, some of his neighbours accessed the temporary shelters arranged by the government. Manoj and his family preferred not to go. Even his neighbours who did go, returned in a few days.
Regarding the COVID vaccine, Manoj says, ‘फिलहाल कोई जानकारी नहीं मिला है’. (I’ve not received any information yet). His message to the government is simple. ‘हम लोगों को सिर्फ रोज़गार चाहिए और राशन में सब मिलना चाहिए’ (We just want employment and we should get basic supplies from the ration shop.)
This is the fifth story in a series of interviews we are conducting with community members, to bring to light the onground situation during the second wave of COVID-19. You can also catch up on the first four stories here: 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Contributed by Aaditya Chavan, Amrutlal Betwala and Niyoshi Parekh