Wednesday, 27 October, 2021

Virus yanks down daily wage earners


By A Staff Reporter

Kathmandu, Mar. 24: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. People are staying home, away from the streets and markets.
Nepal, too, has adopted stringent precautionary measures against the disease as it seeks to contain the virus in the country.
The people are on high alert, taking leaves from work to stay home, prioritising their health over other aspects of their lives. But not everyone has the luxury to look after themselves in times like this.
There are people, like Araniko Shahi, who have to be out on the streets every day, potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus to make their ends meet. For Shahi, a rickshaw puller in Thamel, the alternative is starvation.
“I have to be out here, talking to people, trying to get customers because that’s how I earn my living,” he said. The virus, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, does worry him, but the thought that his family might go hungry worries him more.
“We still need to eat; we still need to buy amenities.
How will we manage that if I am not earning money?” Shahi, who is the sole breadwinner of his four-member family, said.
But even when taking such a health risk, he isn’t earning much.
The drop in tourist number, people choosing to stay home and off the streets and the government’s restrictions on travel have hit Shahi hard.
“I used to take people on rides, transport goods and pose for photos and even on bad days, I had at least Rs. 1,000 in my pocket while returning home,” he recalled his earnings before the coronavirus scare. “Now, my income is almost zero.”
Previously, when times were hard, he used to go home to Kalikot, but now he can’t even do that.
“We don’t own a TV, so we missed the Prime Minister’s address. Nobody told us that long-distance travel was going to be suspended and now, it’s too late.”
Ratna Thing is another person in danger of losing his financial stability. He runs a clothes shop in Thimi and his sales have plummeted over the past month.
“People go to buy daily necessities in times like this, not luxury items like clothes,” Thing explained his situation, “I used to sell around Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 5,000 worth of clothes every day, but now, I’m lucky if my daily figures come up to a few hundred rupees.”
He lamented his career choice and wished he had joined a salaried-job in his youth. “I would have had a guaranteed monthly salary, regardless of earthquake or coronavirus or any other thing and not depend on daily sales.”
In sharing his view, Thing presented a sobering thought that would be applicable to many small businesses at this time. “The virus has yanked us down so hard that we might never be able to get back up.”
With the country coming to a halt and the society going into isolation, those who live on a day-by-day basis are at risk of losing their lifeline.
“We might require a financial bailout package after all this is over. Otherwise, our future looks grim,” Thing said, visibly worried about his future prospects