The story of Razia Khatoon is typical of thousands of poor men and women across the country who have found it hard to keep their body and soul together in the last two and half months as markets, shops, businesses were halted to contain the spread of Coronavirus
PATNA — Sitting in a room with thatched roof, she is stitching masks at a very meagre rate to burn her kitchen as her husband has not been able to ply his e-rickshaw since the sudden nationwide lockdown was imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last week of March.
The story of Razia Khatoon is typical of thousands of poor men and women across the country who have found it hard to keep their body and soul together in the last two and half months as markets, shops, businesses were halted to contain the spread of Coronavirus.
Resident of Muzaffarpur town, around 80 km from the state capital Patna, Razia, in early twenties and mother of one-year-old baby girl, has been stitching masks for one month. Clothes and other raw materials are provided to her by a local contractor. She stitches masks and gives back to the contractor who sells them in markets. She gets only Rs one for stitching one mask. She is able to stitch around 100 masks in a day.
“I am stitching masks as I badly need money. My husband is unable to work as his e-rickshaw is lying dysfunctional. We don’t have money due to the lockdown. The situation has forced me to do this work to keep the house running but I am finding it very difficult to do,” says Razia with her husband baby-sitting the toddler near her.
From June 1, both the central and state governments have announced relaxations in movement of businesses and people. Private commercial vehicles like e-rickshaw and auto-rickshaw are also allowed to ferry limited number of passengers. However, Razia’s husband has not been able to ply his e-rickshaw as its two out of four batteries have become dysfunctional.
“My husband has not been able to work as batteries of his e-rickshaw require to be replaced with new ones. I get Rs one for one mask. How can I earn enough to run the house? I am able to stitch only 100-150 masks in a day. With this amount, I have to buy medicines also for my baby,” says Razia.
In his address to the nation last month, ahead of fifth lockdown, PM Modi had announced a package of Rs 20 lakh crore to boost the dying economy of the country. One can’t expect that even a penny of this amount will reach poor, struggling women like Razia. The PM had called upon the people to make the country ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) in all fields. Can Razia also become atmanirbhar’? Seems unlikely.
When asked about help, she says she needs a small monetary support so that her husband could buy new batteries for his e-rickshaw and start plying the vehicle on the road as usual to earn money. “New batteries will cost around Rs 16,000,” she says.
PS: There has been tremendous response to this moving story with a number of readers reaching out to help Razia. She has now received the required help. A big thank you goes out to our conscientious readers. -Editor