Name: Mohammad Zubair
Hometown: Saidanpur, Uttar Pradesh
Occupation: Embroidery Work
Mohammad Zubair worked as an embroider in Uttar Pradesh. He visited his family for Holi. At the time, there was no threat from the Covid-19 virus. The announcement of the lockdown prompted a nervous sensation. The pandemic intercepted his only source of livelihood, limiting his expenses to food from the ration store. Mohammad Zubair awaits any paid opportunity to attain the lifestyle he maintained before the spread of the Corona Virus.
Interviewer: How has the COVID-19 virus altered your earning capacity?
Mohammad Zubair: In March, I visited my family for Holi. There was no information I heard during the celebration. I first encountered the virus during the ‘Janta Curfew’ announcement. I religiously watch the news; adequate preparations for foreign travellers could have avoided the spread of the disease in India. Italy and China were in lockdown after reporting their first spread; why did we not employ similar measures?
There are a variety of stress-induced questions concerning my survival once the savings are over. Who will support me? The state can provide ration for now, but for how long will they continue? Is rice without vegetables and oil enough? I could not purchase medicine for the first three months of the lockdown. The hospitals were in a restricted territory; the patrolling policemen did not allow individuals to be out without a valid reason. Besides, the local pharmacy is a private entity, it is not eligible to sell the medicines labelled, “Not for Sale”.
Interviewer: Do you have any expectations or demands from the government?
Mohammad Zubair: The government assured the farmers Rs. 2,000, and Rs. 500 to other laborers under the ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’. Some have financially stable families to support them through the catastrophe, while others like me have Rs. 20,000 or so saved. These savings will not last beyond three months. A family of five requires Rs. 200 for one breakfast. Furthermore, there are two other meals to be arranged.
I am repeatedly contacting my employer as to when the work will restart, but there is no conclusive response. Learning a new skill takes time and practice. If I were to start learning a new craft now, there will be no time to provide for the family. Life is unpredictable; nobody knows what is in store the next minute.
Interviewer: Have you reached out to any state-department for help?
Mohammad Zubair: I invited a colleague of the Pradhan of Gram Panchayat. He is a junior worker but attended the migrant audience and complied with their requests. The migrants were to receive 35 k.g. of ration from the government. However, the schemes were not redeemable as there are no set guidelines for its functioning. The deficit in preparations allows for the potential misuse of our resources by the authorities. My colleague educated us on forms that needed to be filled, bank details, and Aadhar card details required to collect ration and money.
The people from my village are still scared to consult the government officials. Perhaps, a resourceful local can gather our demands and represent to the necessary authorities on our behalf. I did not imagine India would be in such a condition; we, the people, have to fix the damages. It is time we circulate our purchases inside the country. Chinese products have attracted the majority of the market due to the low price. Although the items will be more expensive if manufactured in the country, it will eventually benefit us.
Urban planners place an industrial town that creates job opportunities for skilled and unskilled. Uttar Pradesh is the largest state in India — many have migrated to different parts of the country. Regardless of their qualifications, the jobs in U.P. are lacking. Industrial development in the state will absorb a herd of laborers. In the meantime, there is work under the MGNREGA scheme for those who are okay with such work.