The going gets tougher for daily wage earners as price hike adds to their woes amid pandemic

To give up and quit living, or to go on in pain. The questions loom large over several daily wage earners in Manipur struggling to survive as the going gets tougher for them with the passing of days.


Women vendors in Imphal Manipur (File Photo: IFP)

 

Manipur is a small state in Northeast India with a huge population of daily wage earners faced with untold hardships, including financial problems and health issues, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily wage earners include street vendors and local market vendors who are mostly women, cart pullers, cycle-rickshaw and auto drivers among others. The pandemic seems to have slowed down, and the state is slowly opening up, but the issue of price hike has added to their load of never-ending woes.

Most of the women vendors at Ima Keithel (only women markets) in Imphal are sole earning members in their respective families. They feed their children and provide them education with their daily earnings in the hope of ensuring a bright future for their children and their entire families.

“One day, we can be among the rich. We can also live a happy life without any worries.” Such hopes expressed by them got shattered when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state and the world at large.

Apart from the women vendors at Ima Keithel (women only markets), several bread earners in the state like the auto drivers, rickshaw pullers, cart pullers, street stall owners who wait at Samu-makhong and Konung Mamaang for people to come and call them for menial work suffer from making ends meet every day.

During the lockdown period, with no work at hand, they suffered long and hard.

“How are they supposed to feed the family, and how are they going to buy smartphones for their children to attend online classes,” are a few questions that pained them.

The biggest question to those struggling for life is, “How are they going to survive without food?”

Basic needs are all they dream of.

Now, it is almost a year and the COVID-19 vaccination drive has started in the state. Slowly, life in Manipur is getting back to normalcy. Shops have started to open. People do not hesitate to move out anymore.

Ima Keithel, however, remained shut. The suffering continues.

Passenger vehicles have started to hit the roads following the news of school and college reopening.

Unfortunately, in the midst of all these issues, fuel price skyrocketed.

As a result, passenger vehicles now charged their passengers triple the amount from previous rate in the name of maintaining SOPs coupled with price hike. College and school goers are facing tremendous problems in having to bear the travel expense.

Soon after overcoming the struggle for survival during the lockdown period, another burden of the unbearable “price hike” of essentials commodities has hit the the daily wage earners.

One could not imagine how the daily wage earners are suffering still as they struggle for survival day after day. They also have to bear the trouble and burden of passing through several intervals of transportation to reach their desired destinations for earning.  

As the struggle for the poor daily wage earners get tougher, many of them think of giving up the struggle and quit which will have serious negative impact on their children studying in schools, colleges and universities.

Unbearable price hike will also lead to many unwanted anti-social activities such as illegal drug transportation, demanding ransom, loot, involving in flesh trade and others in search of easy way of earning in order to cope with the situation and meet their daily basic needs.

Meanwhile, the Government of India is trying to recover the lost economy due to Covid-19 lockdown by imposing high taxes on the public which is a violation of right to life.

As the pandemic has already given hardship to the daily bread earners, now the steps taken up by the government of increasing the taxes is a way to stop the livelihood.

The steep fuel price hike and unfordable commuting fares is hampering the daily activities of the common man, especially the daily wage earners in Manipur.

For a small and poor state like Manipur, most people are being marginalised by the present situation. Therefore, it is highly questionable whether “the Government of India is neglecting the lives of the poor? or “Is the Government of India indicating us to quit living, or is it showing us the path to hell?

It is high time to question why people’s participation and consent are not considered? Time to realise we are citizens of the largest democratic country in the world where people’s participation and consent are not taken into consideration.

First Published:Feb. 6, 2021, 2:44 p.m.

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