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Daily wage earners hardest hit in Goalpara district

By Roop Choudhury

GOALPARA, March 29 - Thousands of daily wage earners and labourers in Goalpara district have been badly affected following the 21-day nationwide lockdown in place in a bid to arrest the spread of coronavirus.

As the lockdown entered the 5th day today, thousands of daily wage earners have been left with no other option except to stay indoors and are struggling to feed their families as they were left without work all of a sudden. They include manual labourers, masons, plumbers, carpenters drivers, e-rickshaw drivers, rickshaw pullers, hawkers, fishermen, small vegetable vendors etc. The farmers are not also not able to sell their farm produce which are now rotting in the fields.

People are running out of cash but they dare not venture out due to some overzealous policemen. Already the low-rung workers in the unorganised sector have begun to feel the brunt and their lives are gradually getting devastated.

Dhiren Hajong of Rakhyasini area under Matia revenue circle said that there is no prospect of earning a single penny till the lockdown ends. Hajong said that there are more than 100 daily wage earners from his village Milonpara which has around 134 families and they are now struggling for a meal daily. Food shortages are common and even though they have BPL cards, the government is dragging its feet over the promise of providing succour to the needy.

Similar is the story of Nicolas Banai, a mason from Amtoli village under Matia revenue circle which has around 40 families and where around 30 masons besides the womenfolk work as daily wage earners and there is every likelihood of food running out in the coming days in some of the poor villages like Lalabori, Khutrapara, Tinkuniapara, Hatipara all under Matia revenue circle, Milonnagarshantipur village, Borpahar, Jyotinagar, Bijoynagar, Bhatipara Natunbasti, Pahartoli under Balijana circle and some villages under Lakhipur revenue circle.

Most of the families who are engaged in the pottery industries located in Dubapara, Mornoi, Palpara and Gohain Guri are struggling to meet their basic necessities daily as they have no income due to the lockdown and are also going through a crisis due to the want of clay which according to them had to be brought from a distant place. Also, the plight of e-rickshaw owners is pitiable and their lives have been disrupted by the lockdown. One Binoy Das from Mornoi area who drives his own e -richshaw and earns around Rs 400 daily said that he has taken a loan from a private finance firm and doesn�t know how he will repay the monthly instalment as his income has been severely affected by the lockdown.

Meanwhile, talking to this correspondent social activist Noni Das said the basic hygiene of washing of hands, social distancing and avoiding close contacts, which are critical to arresting the spread of the deadly coronavirus remains to be seen in the poor neighbourhoods and villages as the people who are from poor economic backgrounds are quite oblivious of the dreaded virus which is highly contagious. He also questioned the very purpose of the lockdown when people have to venture out from their homes in these rural areas for want of work and other food items inspite of heightening the risk of community transmission in these places. Further, he alleged that many grocery shops have empty shelves and the problem of availability of essential items in these shops in these rural areas is getting worse. He also pointed that the daily incomes of most of the people from Baladmari char area have been badly affected which includes the scheduled caste fishermen, carpenters, labourers, street vendors, domestic helpers etc.

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