GUWAHATI, May 19 - For thousands of slum dwellers and people residing in small huts along the railway tracks in the city, both the COVID-19 pandemic and starvation have posed a big challenge for their survival amid the lockdown. These people include petty traders, daily wage labourers, cleaning workers, etc., among whom awareness about hygiene and sanitization is almost nil and most of them are victims of drug and substance abuse.
A section of these people in conversation with The Assam Tribune, stated that their living places are yet to come under any sanitization drive and social distancing norms.
�It is practically impossible for us to follow the social distancing norms. If we have to follow the norms then the government should provide sufficient ration every day. How can we survive without going out for work?� argued Mahesh Das, who resides in a hut along the railway track at Fancy Bazar.
Mahesh alleged that no sanitization drive has been carried out by government officials in his area where thousands of people live in huts by the railway tracks.
Sima Sahani, a trader who deals in scrap materials near the railway track at Fancy Bazar, informed that even after implementation of a series of health guidelines by the government, no change has taken place in the lifestyle of these people.
�These people are at high risk because consumption of alcohol and other substances still continues among them. If the State government doesn�t take any immediate step then Guwahati will face a worse situation in coming days,� Sahani said.
Talking about the present scenario at his place of residence, Chiranjit Chakraborty of Bhaskar Nagar slum area said officials concerned have not taken any step to sanitize their area even after repeated requests.
�The people here are not using masks or maintaining social distancing outside their houses. Sale of country liquor and drugs is continuing unabated even amid the lockdown. On the other hand, most of the people of our slum area are yet to come under the free ration distribution drive of the government,� he said.
Bijay Basfar, a resident of the slum area located near the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, said that after imposition of the lockdown he lost his job and did not receive any help from the State government.
�My family has no ration card, so managing daily ration is become almost impossible for me. On top of that, there is no scope for me to get a job under the present circumstances,� Bijay lamented.
Puran Basfar of the Fatasil Ambari slum area alleged that although the district administration has provided one-time ration, the amount was not sufficient to cover all the people of his area. Many needy people were deprived of ration. Again, from the very first day of the lockdown many people of the slum area have remained jobless, he added.
On the other hand, Puran, who is a cleaning worker in the Guwahati Municipal Corporation, said that they are carrying out routine cleaning work without getting to wear masks and hand gloves.
�We have appealed to the authorities concerned to give us masks and gloves, but are yet to get any positive response,� he added.