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Wednesday 3 June 2020

COVID attack on the middle class: Interview with a Gandhian

I appeal to the common man to cooperate with the agencies so that we can bring the COVID-19 to dust and bury it permanently: Krishna V Itnal

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The China-generated deadly coronavirus pandemic (COVID) was brought under control in the country within three or four months of its occurrence. However, its fatal tentacles spread like wildfire across the globe developing itself into a nightmare to the human race on earth.

Thanks to the callousness of an ominously rising power, the citizens of the US, Italy and many other European countries bore the brunt by sacrificing many of their fellow beings. India initially boasted of a very good situation in combating the epidemic in terms of loss of human lives.

The rate of infection now

In comparison to many other so-called well developed industrious nations boasting of tremendous GDP growth and most modern medical infrastructure, India, on the contrary with the least possible health facilities braved the onslaught of the viral menace with a lesser rate of infections and negligible numbers of casualties going by the big size of the population.

However, the COVID pandemic, knowing no authentic vaccine or drug to treat it till date, was successful enough in dealing a death knell to the lives of the poor, less fortunate migrant labourers and people alike across the length and breadth of the nation.

For the first two phases, the term lockdown really made some sense as the whole country literally came to a grinding halt. Along with the entire country, the same horrible period also proved to be detrimental to millions of people who got stuck in the disastrous mêlée!

Krishna V Itnal is a septuagenarian Gandhian settled in Pune, Maharashtra. A former administrative officer with the Life Insurance Corporation of India, he had been associated with the Gandhi Peace Foundation activities for decades and continues to lead a simple Gandhian life, with equal support from family members.

However, today he is too disturbed a person. Incidentally, he has no reason to worry for his own livelihood, but the turnovers of the consequences due to the COVID lockdown continue to haunt him like never ever before. He cites any number of instances, glaring examples as a fallout of the lockdown measures.

Deelip Kumbare is his newspaper vendor for the last 15 years. For his misfortune, no newspapers are published from Pune since the third week of March. As a result, for all practical purposes, he is sitting idle with no other sources of income to meet the ends. On average he used to distribute papers worth Rs 8,000 on a daily basis and employed eight boys for two hours in the morning.

Now all of them are jobless and with no income. And to add to his new tale of woes he hasn’t been able to make the recovery of bills for the previous two months. The simple reason for such a predicament is that he is not let into housing societies due to the COVID-related lockdown stipulations.

This peculiar situation isn’t restricted to Deelip Kumbare as the Pune Newspaper Vendors’ Association boasts a membership of 2,500 people. Taking only 10 boys working with each one of them the number of sudden jobless and with no incomes is as big as 25,000.

This is not a story of Pune alone. If you can make a wild guess of similar people across the country their numbers may easily go as high as a few million!

According to Kiran Rai, a correspondent for a Mumbai-based Kannada daily, the hotel industry might have undergone a huge loss of at least Rs 200 crores during this lockdown period in Pune. He hurriedly adds that not all hoteliers are wealthy enough to sustain the loss and continue to run the show.

Santosh Nalatwad, who runs a computer education centre, plainly admits his formerly thriving business is now totally ruined as he was compelled to wind it up a few months ago. Earlier, during the vacation period beginning from April and ending in June, he used to have a boom in business. But due to COVID-19, this season he has suddenly become bankrupt!

Bhimappa Tegnoor, a young entrepreneur, was running a registered micro-finance business with three more partners. As a goodwill gesture to their customers, they magnanimously waived off interest due for three months to the loans availed. They went another step ahead by postponing the repayment for another three months. But, now the paradoxical and pathetic turnaround of things is so bad that these one-time job creators have no jobs for themselves these days!

Jayant happens to be a close friend of Krishna V Itnal. He lost his job with a private bank due to the moratorium imposed by RBI. He has a small family of wife and college-going son. The financial distress for losing the smalltime job has become so worse that they are forced to be content with having tea to a single cup a day!

The senior Gandhian submits: We advised our home maid Shalan to restrict her movements to home from 20 March and paid her dues immediately. Now, desperate of her financial condition, she is ready to resume her work with eight families, but movement restrictions, have kept her away from work.

In almost all private educational institutions in Pune, all the staffers have got half their salaries for two months. The big question before them is, as to how to repay the EMI’s, he adds.

He also admires the service motto of several people on the way: Amidst all these happenings, the police people, medical staff and municipal workers, right from top to bottom are too much strained and stressed and unfortunately, a number of casualties have taken place among them.

To conclude, I earnestly appeal to the common man to please cooperate with the above agencies, so that we can bring the COVID-19 to dust and bury it permanently,” says Krishna V Itnal.

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