No respite for Salyan labourers even during prohibitory ordersMany daily wage earners in the district are compelled to work in the field every day to make ends meet, putting themselves at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Forty-five-year-old Bhimkali Roka from Jayatpani in Bangad Kupinde Municipality Ward No. 9 was not following any health safety protocols while crushing pebbles on a road side on Saturday. She neither had a face mask on nor was she maintaining distance from other workers at the site.
“It has been difficult to manage two square meals a day, let alone think of our health safety. We are more worried about dying of hunger than of the threat of the virus,” Roka said.
Like Roka, many other labourers in Salyan are compelled to work in the field every day to make ends meet, exposing themselves to the virus.
“The local administration has imposed a prohibitory order but I am still working to feed my family. If I do not work every day, my family will have nothing to eat,” Prem Bahadur Budha of Shreenagar in Sharada Municipality Ward No. 1.
Budha is working in a group of ten people at present. None of them have face masks on.
Most of the workers who used to work in hotels and restaurants have also become jobless because of the prohibitory order in place. They are now working as daily wage workers, Buddha said.
“We don’t want to face the same problem that we did during last year’s lockdown. We were without any work for three months and it was very difficult to manage food and essentials,” said Dal Bahadur Roka, a local resident of Bangad, who was crushing pebbles alongside Roka on Saturday. “Covid-19 infections are rapidly spreading but we still have to work to put food on the table. No one will help us during this crisis. We are working for our survival.”
After the placement of prohibitory orders in Salyan, prices of daily essentials have skyrocketed in the district, labourers complain
“We have not received any relief from the government. How can we survive in this situation?” said Chandra Bahadur Nepali, a labourer from Tribeni Rural Municipality,
According to him, the government has abandoned daily wage workers like him. “If the government had provided some relief, we wouldn't need to work by risking our lives during the pandemic,” said Nepali.
Meanwhile, Mayor of Sharada Municipality Suresh Adhikari said that his office will launch a relief programme if the prohibitory order is extended.
“Last year, we had distributed food grains as relief to impoverished households and labourers. We will launch a similar relief programme this year too,” Adhikari said.
The prohibitory order, which was imposed by the District Administration Office in Salyan on May 2, has been extended till May 30 citing the spread of coronavirus at the community level.
According to organisations affiliated to labourers in Salyan, around 2,000 daily wage earners have been directly affected by the prohibitory order.
“Many people are compelled to come out of their house and work even during the prohibitory order. The government bodies should at least provide masks and sanitisers to the workers,” said Bir Bahadur Sejuwal, president of Nepali Congress Trade Union in Salyan. “It’s also necessary to inform them of Covid-19 and teach them health safety measures to protect themselves from the virus.”
According to the District Health Office in Salyan, the number of Covid-19 cases has been increasing in the district of late. Twenty six individuals have died of Covid-19 and over 900 positive cases have been reported in Salyan since the start of mid-April this year, according to the data of the District Health Office.