At the Kachi colony slum in Dhanas, which has been sealed for the past 21 days, no ration has been distributed since April 21. The colony, which houses 1,600 shanties, with occupants working as daily wage laborers, was sealed after its resident who worked as a sanitation attendant at PGIMER was tested positive.
Dependent on daily wage and unable to go out to work, residents have already exhausted their ration and are eagerly waiting for the colony to open up.
“We spoke to the SDM and asked her about when will the seal be lifted. We were told in one or two days but that has not happened. People are running out of food and patience,” says Nazma Khan, a social activist who has been working in Dhanas since the past fifteen years.
On April 21, each family was given 5kg wheat, 2 kg dal, 1 kg rice, 2 kg sugar, a bottle of refined oil, a packet of tea and some turmeric. “This might still last for a small family, but with nine to ten members, people drained these rations within a week at most,” adds Khan.
Apart from the ration, the residents are also devoid of vegetables, milk and other basic resources. “Most of the days we eat roti and salt or roti with chutney made of leftover onions and garlic. I can still make it because I just have two children,” says Leelavati, a ward attendant at PGIMER, who was last posted at Nehru Block.
Since the lockdown began, she has been unable to report to work, and is worried her salary will be cut as she is employed contractually and depends on daily wages. A milk cart does make its way through the sealed area in the morning, though most can no longer afford to buy it, being out of cash and unable to withdraw money from bank accounts.
Contractual medical staff worried they will lose their job
Besides daily wage labourers, vendors and domestic helpers residing in the colony, there is also a large population of contractual paramedical staff, employed at PGIMER, GMCH 32 and GMSH 16, who reside here. Staff members have been receiving threatening calls by contractors asking them to report to work, and are worried they will lose their jobs soon if the colony continues to be sealed.
“A person called and said if the staff from Bapu Dham can reach, so can you. What can we do, we even have a pass, but no one will let us out,” says Morish Masih, who worked as a ward attendant supervisor in the emergency ward of PGIMER before the sealing.
Though many had been going out for COVID-19 duty until the colony was sealed, now they face the grim action of wage cuts and potential job losses.
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