COVID-19 has led to a hiatus in normal routine activities, and no one knows when life will go back to being how it was before the lockdown if it ever does. Stringent lockdown measures taken by the government have forced people to seek alternative ways to keep themselves engaged. But it is a bigger struggle for many self-employed women whose business have come to an abrupt halt. There is no money coming in, and thus there is no sleep, no assurance, no security.
For our series How coronavirus changed my life, we spoke with Seema Kumar, a boutique owner from the Mahita area in Noida, Delhi. For her, the lockdown brings fear, uncertainty and loss of livelihood. Seema has two sons, one is 18, while the other is 12 years old. She runs the boutique from her home. The nationwide lockdown is proving to be a big challenge for her, in terms of financial and mental well-being.
Trapped in an unanticipated scenario
"Prior to the lockdown, the business was going very well. I had sufficient clients and was able to meet the deadlines. But today the situation isn't the same. Since people are not allowed to venture out from their houses, a major part of our daily economic activity has come to a standstill. As a result of which the income is zero, but expenses are the same. In this situation paying salaries to my two employees is very difficult," revealed Kumar.
The Prime Minister had assured that the prices of essential items will not increase but what is the ground reality? I am able to fetch a regular packet of sugar by paying 20 rupees more than the MRP.
Seema's husband works at a manufacturing unit. She said, "Many people in our locality have lost their jobs owing to this coronavirus. We are trying to limit our expenses and are now totally dependent on our past savings."
Need support from the government
While help has been promised to the likes of Seema, it is yet to arrive. "Although the government has taken various relief measures to alleviate the distress of people, but till now there have been no cash transfers into my 'Jan Dhan Account'," said she.
Rising prices, double the woes
With no income, it is getting increasingly difficult for Seema and her husband to provide for their two children. She said, "The Prime Minister had assured that the prices of essential items will not increase but what is the ground reality? I am able to fetch a regular packet of sugar by paying 20 rupees more than the MRP. Although the vegetables are available at a reasonable rate, the prices of packed items are surging. In our area, there is a limited supply of goods at the grocery stores which results in panic buying among the customers."
Jut last month the couple purchased a new scooty on EMI for their elder son as they cannot afford the fees of the school bus. This added expense is now a challenge for the family, with limited means at their disposal. "The downpayment is still pending and there is no source of income. I hope that the government will exempt the payment for now and extend the date further."
Expectations from the policymakers
Seema agreed that since coronavirus is highly contagious a lockdown is needed to limit its transmission. But at the same time, the government should ensure that aid is transferred regularly to the people in need. "Policies should be enacted to ensure a continuous supply of essential items at a reasonable price. Everyone should have access to basic commodities. If the government has the right to enforce such a nationwide lockdown then it's obliged to protect the fundamental rights of the people," said Seema.
Divya Rawat is an intern with SheThePeople.TV