Updated on 9 Aug 2020, 3:02 am
Image by Bishworjit Mandengbam-IFP
Today’s 21st century world has come to a standstill. Blame it on Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19. But this standstill has not stopped the life clock from ticking and this standstill is taking a heavy toll on the lives of the common man, especially on those daily wage earners, labours and people engaged in menial jobs. With the global economic experiencing the distress, jobs in private sectors are being downsized and many are left jobless.
Manipur is not a centre of industries, MNCs or where big factories function that provides jobs to different sections of people. Majority of the people in the state are engaged in agriculture and other allied activities. Of these people, women vendors or street vendors, selling vegetables and other day-to-day items of household use contribute a major proportion of our earning population. But, due to the present situation of lockdown imposed by the government to contain the spread of Coronavirus, their means of livelihood have been cut off with no outlet or other alternative means.
Many of these people belong to Below Poverty Line (BPL) and many of them find it hard to make both ends meet.
The Indian Constitution has provided for food supplies in subsidized rates through the Public Distribution system (PDS) and the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) under the National Food Security Act, 2013. This entitlement is made available to BPL card holders and AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) Card holders, who constitute the poorest of the poor people, both in our state as well as in India. And government, both at the centre and state, are trying hard to make food grains available to these people.
However, it is a well-known fact that many are unable to avail such facilities and schemes of the government in such a hard time mankind has ever witnessed. People living in far flung areas, remote areas and some living in urban areas as well, who are unaware of such government schemes, are being deprived of such arrangements by the government.
So, who is catering to the needs and requirements of such people, who are left without food and without any provision for means of earning in this time of lockdown, with vegetable vendors and the like being restricted from functioning?
The state government should be aware of the existence of such people who are also human beings and who are also experiencing the COVID crunch. The details of this particular section of the people must be mentioned in government documents or records.
Certainly, some NGOs and some kind-hearted people or social workers have come forward to extend help and are catering to the needs of such people. But 10 kg of rice or even 50 kg of rice cannot suffice their hunger for 144 days (the period of lockdown from March 23, 2020 till August 15, 2020). Can it?
This Coronavirus or COVID-19 has changed our world in various spheres - economically, socially and politically. Economically, people are left penniless (except for those who are employed in government sectors or who are government employees, in general term). Man, who is a social animal, now have to maintain social distance, staying separate from one another to prevent the spread of corona virus. People are now becoming more stressed out and are now on the verge of suffering from depression and other mental disorders, causing a great social impact.
Governments, all over the world, are also adopting and devising new ways of tackling the pandemic and they are politically strained. But the ground reality from which none of us can run is that in this fight against
COVID-19, some have lost their lives after coming in contact with this deadly virus; some more will lose their lives, not due to contact with Coronavirus, but due to the conditions created by the lockdown owing to coronavirus.
And, God knows that many might have lost their lives, the deaths of which have not been reported and counted by the government in deaths due to COVID-19, but deaths due to hunger and other ailments during this time of pandemic should also be accounted for in the COVID-19 deaths, though they are not direct but the loss of lives cannot be overlooked, for humans are the same, whether rich or poor. All are created equally by God and all are equal in the eyes of Law.
And, the question which still remains to be addressed is - How is the government or concerned authorities going to alleviate the problems of these people, who are considered poor and who are left without any means of livelihood in such an hour of distress and misery, who are experiencing the COVID crunch, economically and socially, let alone politically?
N Jogendra Meitei
Lower Divisional Assistant at the District-Sessions Court, Ukhrul, Manipur High Court