The hopes of the working classes that the government will relax curfew timings were shattered with the decision to extend the restrictions till June 10 without any change in the timings. The working classes are the worst sufferers due to coronavirus and curfew/lockdown as they are barred from work and income.
The state government on Monday extended the partial curfew in the state till June 10. The decision to extend the 18 hours curfew for the third consecutive time was taken following a high-level review meeting by Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, as the current lockdown will end on Monday. Business and commercial establishments will be allowed to operate as per Covid protocols, between 6 am and 12 noon, however, Section 144 will be in force during these 6 hours.
The lockdown has been harsh on street vendors, as it is for many other workers in the large informal economy. Streets became eerily quiet, and with the absence of any foot traffic, the vendors in Vizag city have lost their source of income, and are confronting hunger and deprivation. Along with this, entrepreneurs and producers whose products are sold by the vendors suddenly faced the same crisis.
The badly hit section of people from the 18 hours partial curfew are the petty traders, small shops, daily wage workers, construction labour, hawkers, vegetable vendors and others who earn their living on day-to-day earnings. These sections are struggling with meagre wages and most of them hardly get work due to lockdown.
Much of the meagre savings of street vendors have been used up during the lockdown period; many are pushed into debt and are paying high interest rates. And most of the street vendor population is made up of migrants, the burden of house rent is an issue of concern both in the lockdown period and post-lockdown.
CPM state leader Ch Babu Rao said that the government has to think in a precise manner when lockdown/curfew is inevitable. They should think of the livelihood of the poor. The government should provide direct benefit schemes to the poor and needy as done during the first wave. Surprisingly, neither the State nor the Central government has come forward with any schemes despite the severity of the second wave.
The government should instruct banks and other financial institutions to support the middle-class people on payment of EMIs and loans during the lockdown, he said. Babu Rao said that it was very unfortunate that the government was increasing the fuel price like never before.