Faisal Mosque © khalidgd from Pixabay

Daily wagers struggling for bread and butter in lockdown

Islamabad: Gray-haired Khalil shah sits beside a road holding a hammer and different labour tools in G10 square, with his eyes waiting for some work to do so that he may earn bread and butter for his family. This is a minor reflection when the whole country is facing a lockdown with the Novel Corona virus-19 on the rise. It’s been more than 45 days Pakistan’s observed lockdown. Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad owned a large number of industry and factories. Labour from all cities especially move metropolitan cities for work, unfortunately, Pakistan’s Business hub Karachi also facing restrictions.
The daily wagers and the labourers are struggling hard to survive in the coronavirus lockdown at federal capital. 21,501 cases have been registered in Pakistan. The Novel Corona virus-19 outbreak across the country is not only affecting the business class but also hurting bad the daily wagers in Islamabad.
Khalil shah 50, a resident of Katchi Abadi –slum areas of Islamabad-arrived here from Mardan over five years back with his family. Every morning he use to visit G-10 square and sits here for hours with his hammer and tools hoping to find some work.

 

G-10 square Islamabad
G-10 square Islamabad

A few days back, everything was smooth, I was doing my work with great zeal and zest; said Shah adding that He was on his way home after purchase of groceries when the police announced to shut down markets, hotels asking people to stay at home.
He added, “It was a big shock for me as I am the only bread and butter earner. Not only alarming for me but dozens of other workers. After advising my family to stay indoor I returned back here in the hunt for work but failed to find any and this is becoming routine.
Not only Khalil shah alone but various other daily wagers and labour used to sit under the tree seeking some work during the lockdown. Rehan shah a young teen waiter at a local hotel who also works on daily wages is badly depressed and confused about the whole terrible situation. Rehan hails to Quetta and came here to work on a tea stall. The situation is quite distressing targeting daily wager and the labourer class. Streets are largely deserted because of the Corona outbreak which is now another tension for many like him.
“I don’t know how long it will prevail, said Rehan adding “my pockets are empty now, transportation has been frozen and I can’t even return to my hometown.
Cladded in Black Kurtta and Shalwar, a typical Pushtoon dress, Rehan added that the sky-scraping rent of accommodation and rapidly growing inflation is another problem in the capital. How long we could survive without work?

Since the federal government has announced the lockdown the daily wage labourer class is no more permitted to sit at square or even to sell any kind of stuff. After the lockdown, the downtown business centers called “Markaz” in different sectors lie empty. Even the shopping malls, business centers and busy markets in the capital have turned abandoned after the lockdown.
The district government has also imposed restrictions across the country following which the streets and markets are largely deserted.
“We have a family of four, my husband is a daily wager, I am a balloon vendor, we have a proper gas filling machine for gas balloons, my husband usually joins me in the evening. We both work together to meet daily expenditures. We are facing a huge crisis due to lock down and corona outbreak,” Shamim age 40 a balloon vendor informed.
“Even we don’t know what corona is?” Shamim (veiled woman) told us. “I don’t know how long this lockdown will prevail but have finished our savings in daily bread and butter.”
Having shiver and panic in her voice, Shamim continued by saying that She has locked her gas filing machine nearby a footpath and use to visit daily with a hope that the market will open today.
“However the government is carefree and careless when it comes to facilitating labourers and daily wagers. Police vehicles keep patrolling in markets ensuring closure of shops not permitting anyone to work. She elaborated further.
The COVID-19 outbreak has introduced a vast lockdown across the country and the shopping malls, plazas, markets, business centers and central locations of the federal capital appear to be empty. The moral and conditions of the daily wagers and labour class fighting for survival against of corona outbreak and lockdown appears to be getting low. The majority of such people are facing hunger and waiting for some help or miracle.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister said the government will be lifted lockdown gradually, we understand the current socio-economic situation of country thousands of people left jobs, and offices are closed. Prime Ministers also planning to engage youth in pandemic he’s targeting youth and register students, youngster below thirty-five across Pakistan can join “Prime Minister Tiger Force” to facilitate pandemic affected and distribute supplies.


Anas Ahmed

Journalist, writer and Documentary producer. Writer for 'The Nation' and also contribute for 'The News International.' Winner of the Environmental Journalist of the Year Award. Member of HBS Journalist Cohort. He's also Mass Media researcher his area of research is journalism Studies. https://pk.linkedin.com/in/anas-ahmed-575185173