Interviewee: Anil Singh
Date of interview: 12 May, 2020
Anil Singh is a security personnel working in a private security providing organisation around the state of Gujarat.
Q1. How has life changed for you during the Lockdown? What is the present situation of your monthly wages?
A.S.: For me these are one of the toughest times as previously, I was engaged in helping my family in the fields in Uttar Pradesh. To earn for a bigger family and to get married I had to establish myself in the urban area with a comparatively higher income. It has hardly been a year since I have associated myself with this private security organisation which has employed me here.
It is through extreme toil that I have brought a smart phone which I use to connect to my loved ones back in Uttar Pradesh (UP). I have to pay my own rent and cook my own food which is very difficult to cope up with such times. What pokes me more is that housemaids, and drivers are still being paid in my vicinity for months they have not even worked. I understand this is very helpful for them and I don’t hold any grudges against them. But this tends to bug me as I walk three kilometres everyday with no facility to go back home.
All working places have been completely shut down, but society administrations have compelled the security organisations to send their workers to work. Although the organisation has promised to pay us but we have not received the payments. Me and my companions are coming just because of the fear that we might not get paid. I am continuously trying to contact other people for travelling back to UP, by availing the short durational facilities like the train and busses. I do not fear the death from the virus here, but death away from my family in worse off conditions.
Q2. What are the specific problems you have started encountering after more than one month of lockdown?
A few days ago some grocery sellers made their way with great difficulty to our housing region and provided us with vegetables. But this was soon stopped when our region was declared a red zone with rising cases of the virus. People said that, it was through these nomadic grocery sellers that the virus was spreading to more people, but I don’t blame them. If they had a choice they would have gone back home, but they don’t even have the money to pay for the train travel.
After repeated trials of contacting people to get out of town, I was offered a chance to get to my village by paying Rs. 4000 where they will load us up in trucks and help us cross the border. I asked my family member and other friends if this was a good idea, as my financial resources dropped with time. Though I had to get to the village, there was a significant risk that these people might just push us into nastier activities. Even if I could borrow some money, it was far more risky for travelling with unknown people without following any social distancing norms which could expose me to the virus.
Smaller problems pile up every day in such times and in such a setting. My duty hours are no less of a challenge. It is very difficult for me to instruct people to wear masks while they go out for groceries as they retaliate and get aggressive during such times. Escaping from police brutality is another challenge, as a few days ago I had to buy essentials. I picked up the courage to go out, it was with sheer luck that I discovered an open shop but I immediately had to run back as policemen surrounded the shop and started questioning people.
Q3. What are your expectations from the civil society and government now?
There are around more than 50,000 migrant workers in Gujarat patiently waiting for government provisions to reach back home. My friends who stay with me, work in nearby factories which have been completely shutdown. Considering the present state, my friends cannot even ask for their monthly salary as they know the company is in no position to make such transactions.
In my perspective, it was very biased as authorities are making arrangements for students in foreign countries but nothing for the large number of workers in their own country. The students and workers brought back home already have the required money and resources during the time of their lockdown, but on the other hand these monthly wage workers are surviving on their savings which has almost drained out. Just like the government is extremely focused for its Non-Residents Indians (NRI) population outside India, even we have a stake in the Indian society and the least we require right now is a transportation facility to go back home.
*The following interview had been taken in Hindi and was later translated to English
Shrrijiet Roychowdhary is a second year student studying Global Affairs at the Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P Jindal Global University.