Hit hard by pandemic, daily wage earners in Ukhrul stare at uncertain future
Unable to earn their daily wages as markets are closed and most activities are restricted amid the curfew imposed in the state, the daily wage earners in Ukhrul are struggling to make ends meet as their earnings are getting exhausted.
Daily wage earners in Ukhrul district of Manipur as in other parts of the state and the country are facing the brunt of the economic crisis brought about by the curfew and lockdown imposed in the state to ease the severity of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to earn their daily wages as markets are closed and most activities are restricted, the daily wage earners are struggling to make ends meet as their earnings are getting exhausted.
As the daily wagers in Ukhrul district face the impact of the pandemic on their earnings due to the extended lockdown, they now stare at a bleak and uncertain future ahead.
A daily wage earner, Ashang Shimray, whose sustenance depends on the earnings he received from his work as a mason, told the Imphal Free Press that the pandemic had seriously impacted his earning as he could no longer freely move around in the district and get his work done due to the curfew.
“I went to search for work at district headquarters as demands are more in the town. However, as all construction works had come to an abrupt halt, I had to return home empty handed. If this goes on and the pandemic continues to show no positive signs of ebbing, then only God knows how I would tide over the situation,” he said.
Expressing concern that many workers like him do not know what lies ahead of them, he said that for someone like him who had been around as a construction worker for quite some time, a sudden change of work would not be easy.
Meanwhile, some youths who had returned to their native places from outside the district and the state and become unemployed, had started engaging in different fields of work - in groups or individual – such as traditional shawl weaving, organic farming, carpentry, LED bulb manufacturing, animal husbandry, fish cultivation and running fast food joints among others.
However, not everyone can work at the comfort of their home as many do not have the access to the same facilities or have the finance required to work or run their businesses. They also have to endure the setbacks caused by the prolonged curfew, despite it being an unavoidable measure in combating the menace posed by the pandemic.
As the number of Covid positive cases and death toll continue to mount in the district, the authorities concerned have tightened curfew in the district to stop the rapid increase in cases. As a result, many households in the district are on the verge of exhausting essential stocks as commercial shops remain closed.
Sharing his plight to the Imphal Free Press, Angam (name changed), a daily wage earner who sustains his family by running a taxi said that his family would soon face shortages of basic needs as whatever little he had earned has been exhausted.
“Even if authorities overseeing the Covid situation grant some relaxation so that the general public can restock their essential commodities, it does not make any difference to a poor man like me for want of money. I can only pray that the situation improves so that life goes on as usual for the daily wage earners like me,” he added.
In the event of detecting a positive case, chances of their livelihood being impacted are very high as the majority of the state population are concentrated in rural areas. Against this backdrop, the need for setting up more Primary Health Centres (PHC) with adequate manpower and facilities to run the centre is the need of the hour, and not only during Covid times but in the days to come.
The daily wagers and the villagers have been travelling long distances to reach their respective sub division Community Health Centre and district hospital for their medical needs. This situation has compounded the plight of the poor villagers, and there is no dearth of cases in which many succumbed on their way before they reached the dustrict hospital.
Another important factor which could prevent migration and crowding of public in the district headquarter is the lack of sub-branch of bank offices and ATM facilities in the sub division. Had the authorities addressed these genuine issues with urgency, the lives of the rural poor would have been eased.
As told to the Imphal Free Press, daily wagers have been travelling to the district headquarter to withdraw the little amount they have been receiving from the government as schemes or incentives. Their travel expenses did not add up to what they had been receiving. In most of the cases, they have to halt a day or two in the town to get their jobs done. Had the state government installed and set up the required facilities, their lives would have been made much easier and the money spent on travel could have been invested in other important matters.
At the time when authorities concerned had imposed curfew till May 28, the directives circulated by the Tangkhul Co-ordination Forum on Covid-19 (TCFC) to the Village authorities under Ukhrul district to procure essential commodities for their respective villagers came as a big relief for the villagers.
For the residents at the district headquarter, it had urged the respective localities to arrange essential goods from their end, while for those businesses and individuals who wish to take up home delivery services has been asked to take prior permission of the Forum. The third lockdown was announced on May 22, according to the Forum.