For a week, Chanchal Mackwana, like many others, has not gone to work following the coronavirus outbreak. However, the 59-year-old woman, who works as a domestic help in almost ten houses in the nearby societies, is not sure whether she will get her salary.
“Many people have agreed to pay me even if I stay home. But many have been insisting that I come to work otherwise they would cut down my salary,” says Mackwana, who earns Rs 7,000 per month.
But more than money, she is worried about falling sick. Living in a 250 square feet two-room apartment with 11 family members, including her parents, Mackwana asks: How can we live in such a small space and maintain social distance?
For them, going out is feeling “spaciousness”, she says.
Around 10,000 people like Mackwana live at a society built for the members of the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) by the Vadodara Urban Development Authority (VUDA) under its housing scheme at Bhayli area.
The gates of the society, which has 864 houses, are shut down at 10 am since the lockdown was announced and are reopened again at 5 pm. Almost throughout the day the movement in and out of the society is strictly regulated by the members of the society. Over 90 per cent of the women who live there work as domestic helps and the men as auto rickshaw or tempo drivers or as contractual labourers. All of them have been out of work since Sunday.
Most people have now started relying on their savings. “I had saved some money to buy another auto rickshaw but I don’t think I would be able to manage. For the last six days there is no income at all and it has just been three days of the 21-day lockdown. We don’t even know how it will be after that. We have exhausted all the money we had and now we will start relying on the savings. I have my parents and children to look after. We have cut down on consumption to sustain better,” says Suresh Raval (35) an auto rickshaw driver. In the narrow lanes of the society, Raval and many others have parked their auto rickshaws on either side which are now occupied by children playing online games.
Every morning at least 20 small vegetable vendors are allowed inside to sell vegetables. The society also houses 10 small provision stores which provides basic amenities to all the people.
Mackwana said that at present they have the essential items like rice, wheat and pulses which they had bought a few days before the Janata Curfew and will sustain through at least mid-next week.
“We did not see anyone hoarding. People store ration at home for a month. They will refill again now in April,” says Raval.
For the last two days, police too has been patrolling in the society at least twice a day urging people to stay indoors. However, during the day, as the gates remain closed, people in small groups are seen enjoying a game of chess or online ludo.
A bottle of hand sanitizer has also been placed near the society office for children.
“It’s difficult to keep everyone inside all the time. It’s more crowded in their houses than it is outside. We have been trying to restrict the number of people coming inside. There is always someone on the gate. People are allowed inside only after explaining their purpose. We are also telling people to go outside only if is very urgent,” says president of the society, Anil Chavda.
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