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Essential service providers: The unsung heroes in Lockdown

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Some of them are struggling to make ends meet, others are aware that how perilous this outbreak could be for them. Despite all, these Bravehearts from different walks of life step out of their houses to provide essential services. Rahab R. Parveen and Somrita Ghosh speak to them.

Inder Pal, ration store owner

Inder Pal stays three kilometers away from his famous grocery store -- Bhagat Ram --  in Lajpat Nagar’s Krishna Market. Since the coronavirus gripped the national capital, there hasn’t been a single day when he closed his shop.

He has been catering to the entire area from the shop with nine young employees by his side.“The day lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I decided to not step back since I come under essential services.

My employees have been allotted a room on top of my store for their stay,” Pal said.Pal has also bought masks and gloves all of them.“We also suspended home delivery services as my boys felt it could be risky,” he added.Pal lamented that although many grocery stores are open in the area, people have been panic-buying. 

“From day one itself, I have been trying to convince customers that I will be at their service. There would be no shortage of essential commodities, but people have still been coming and hoarding things for at least two months,” he said, adding this if it continues, his stock might get over soon.

Sanjeev Kumar, pharmacist

For Sanjeev Kumar, providing medicines to the public is as important as food.  Kumar is just a text away. One just needs to leave a WhatsApp message about the medicine he/she requires, he will deliver it to any house in Lajpat Nagar and Defence Colony areas. But like millions in the country, Kumar also is worried about the virus outbreak.

“I have taken all precautions. We wear masks, use gloves, hand sanitizer and do not allow customers to come beyond the stairs of our store,” he added.“We are putting up a brave face but ultimately, we also go back to our families and children,” Kumar said.Even though the government has warned everyone against hoarding, Kumar said the stocks are getting over because people are taking too much.

“People are taking stock for one month because they feel the chemist shops might also shut down. This is why we are getting short of stock and many items are already unavailable,” he said. Kumar, however, doesn’t entirely blame his customers for panic-buying as everyone including him is scared.

 

Vimla, safai karmachari

My youngest daughter tries to stop me every time I step out of my house these days. But I have no other choice…who will earn otherwise? What will we eat?” said Vimla while sweeping the lanes in Gulmohar Park area wearing gloves, but without a mask.

Vimla, in her late 40s, is a safai karmachari of the Delhi Municipal Corporation and an ‘essential service’ provider. Vimla, who stays in Badarpur border, is the only bread-earner of her family.“I don’t know if the ‘kuda’ (garbage) that I am collecting has got any infection. I am not aware of any of the surface touched has got the virus. We get gloves and masks after every four days.

My mask tore offer recently, but my office refused to give me a fresh one,” she lamented.“My husband doesn’t work, he remains at home most of the time. So, I have no other option but to risk of my life. If I take leave now, my contractor will deduct my salary. I earn around Rs 14,000 a month and then pay a house rent of Rs 4,000,” she added.

Her daily routine begins at 4 am, she then prepares the meal for her family and takes the first bus from the Badarpur at 5.30 am to Green Park, where she works.

Bholan Saphi, rickshaw-puller

Bhola Saphi has been pedaling a rented rickshaw, which he has to pay Rs 40 a day, for several years now. Since the day of the lockdown, he has been peddling through the lanes and by-lanes of South Delhi’s Jal Vihar to ferry passengers to earn his daily bread and butter despite testing times.
The crisis began soon after he just returned from his village in Bihar.“I used to earn Rs 300-Rs 400 per day before the lockdown, and now, it’s hardly Rs 50-80 a day. This is a tough time for me as I have to pay rent of Rs 40 for the rickshaw. I know there is a disease looming over everyone, but I can’t afford to sit back,” Saphi said. 

As a precautionary measure, he has been wearing a mask, which is supposed to be replaced after every 5-6 hours, but he can’t afford to do that.“I can’t help much, but whatever I could do, I am doing that. I keep my rickshaw clean...I can’t even go back home,” Kumar, who has a family of members, including his wife and four children.

Saphi, who stays with other 10 fellow rickshaw-pullers, fears that the administration might ask them to vacate the place because of the social-distancing.

Dr Arvind Kumar,chest surgeon

Dr Arvind Kumar, an eminent chest surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and founder trustee of the Lung Care Foundation, knows how difficult times he is in when fellow health workers across the world are either losing their lives from the COVID-19 outbreak or being tested positive.

But being a part of the essential services, he can’t afford to stay home.“It is indeed scary, doctors across the world have lost their lives. But this is a war-like situation, and this time, the doctors are the soldiers. When a person joins the army and goes for a battle, there’s no guarantee that he will come back alive. Similarly, doctors for the fear of life cannot sit at home,” said Dr Kumar.

Dr Kumar said throughout his career of more than four decades, he hasn’t seen such a pandemic.“There were epidemics earlier too…SARS, Ebola and others, but nothing in recent history has happened like Coronavirus... at least not in my 44 years of
career.

Not just the doctors, but the families of us are dealing with the effect of the Covid-19 every day,” he added. Dr Kumar has performed more than 10,000 Thoracic Surgeries.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)

55 Days ago