New COVID curbs hit daily wage earners hard

Life took a dark turn for 50-year-old Satheesh Kumar M.R., a visually-challenged lottery vendor, when the pandemic broke out last year.

And, just when he thought things were at last looking up has come the second wave of the pandemic and the accompanying restrictions, leaving him further despondent.

“Physical distancing means that people are staying away from us, badly affecting our business. In the last month alone, I suffered a loss of ₹10,000 on account of unsold tickets. The situation was already bad with low sales commission on account of the Goods and Services Tax,” said Mr. Kumar, a postgraduate who also doubles up as a percussion artiste.

With the new set of restrictions kicking in to check the second wave, daily wage earners on hand-to-mouth existence are an anxious lot.

George Jolly, an autorickshaw driver operating from the Ernakulam North railway station, was already staring at depleted business and fears that it may further worsen if the number of passengers per trip is restricted to two.

“People preferred own vehicles to public transport even before the new restrictions came into force. After a really hard time, things were beginning to improve when they deteriorated further,” he despaired.

K.S. Prasad, secretary of the Association of Mimicry Artistes, lamented that stage artistes dependent on peak festival season had now lost four successive seasons, two each to floods and the pandemic.

“Young and able artistes have moved on to other jobs. However, senior people like those who operated as programme agents are too old even for that. The Central government is considering a financial assistance package and insurance coverage for stage artistes, but nothing is official as yet,” he said even as he fumed at the injustice of restricting public events, while politicians had free rein during electioneering.

Baiju T.A., who operates a private bus on the Kakkanad-Fort Kochi route in Ernakulam, used to don the conductor’s uniform once in a while. Now, he is a regular in that role ever since he had to reduce the staff to cut operational cost following the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Operating with passengers restricted to seating capacity alone may further dent the business, especially considering that we now have to take aboard students travelling on concession for exams unlike post-lockdown when schools remained closed. Making matters worse, diesel price has skyrocketed since the lockdown further burning a hole in our pockets. We will have to earn at least around ₹8,000 a day to break-even,” said Mr. Baiju who plans to suspend the service if the situation turns unfeasible.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 4:57:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/new-covid-curbs-hit-daily-wage-earners-hard/article34336659.ece

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