34-hour lockdown: Last year’s nightmare haunts migrant workers, destitute in Jammu
The 34-hour weekend lockdown, which was suddenly announced on Saturday, has migrant workers and the destitute in Jammu worried as memories of last year’s nationwide lockdown return to haunt them.
Several beggars and destitute people were seen on deserted streets and outside temples, shrines and empty rotaries waiting for alms and food in vain.
50-year-old Prem Kumar, a beggar in Gandhi Nagar, who is crippled since birth and moves around with the help of crutches, said, “Last year, when the Covid pandemic hit the country, a complete lockdown was imposed. The situation was extremely grim for beggars. Now, the lockdown is back again. We pray that it does not last long because we survive on the food and alms given to us by philanthropists.”
“Temples, gurdwaras, mosques, churches, markets, restaurants and eateries are closed. Now, we are truly at God’s mercy,” he added.
“Some philanthropists came today and gave us food in Gandhi Nagar area. I pray that this pandemic comes to an end because if lockdown is frequently imposed then people like us may starve,” he said.
Last year in the middle of the Covid lockdown, the J&K government provided dry ration to beggars, the destitute and daily-wage earners but it didn’t reach everyone because of their enormous population spread across 20 districts of the UT.
The lockdown has also put several migrant labourers from Bihar, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha in a quandary. “Last year, was tough for us. We somehow managed to reach home when trains started running. Transporters were already on strike for the past four days and now this lockdown has added to our woes. We have to leave our shanties early morning and walk 7km to reach the construction site,” said Mohan Lal of Bihar’s Kishanganj area.
“Daily wage earners will bear the brunt of the lockdown. Unlike government employees, we have to work everyday to earn two square meals for our families. If the government has to impose lockdown, it should allow construction workers to work with Covid SoPs,” he added.
His colleague Waheed said, “We appeal the government to allow construction activity and other allied sectors so that we can continue to eke out our living. Otherwise, we may have to head home again.”