Protracted lockdown hits squatter families hardFamilies of daily wage earners in Biratnagar and Dhading stare at trouble as local governments fail to distribute relief.
Deonarayan Sah & Harihar Singh Rathour
Anita Devi Rishidev, a squatter living in Bakhari, Biratnagar, gave birth to a child two weeks ago. She needs nutritious food for herself and her newborn, but is left with little to eat.
“I borrowed some rice and potatoes from my neighbour on Saturday,” she said. “My husband, Sitaram, is a daily wage earner. But ever since the lockdown, he hasn’t had any work.”
The family’s savings were spent on Anita’s hospital bills. “We usually took essential commodities from a local shop on credit. But the shopkeeper has stopped giving us credit,” said Sitaram.
The family is one of the 30 living in the settlement. All adults in the settlement have been out of work after the lockdown. According to Malari Rishidev, another resident of the settlement, the ward chairperson and other people’s representatives visited the settlement a few days ago and jotted down the details of families living in the settlement.
Chanda Devi Rishidev, a pregnant woman from the same settlement who has a four-year-old son, is also facing a shortage of essentials. Her husband, Chandra Kumar, a mason, is worried about feeding the family. “I don’t have any money left now. We will starve to death if this continues,” he said.
City officials, however, said it had been collecting data of needy people to distribute relief packages. “We started distributing relief from Ward No 2, 3, 4 and 7. We are looking at dates to distribute food relief to those in need in other wards at the earliest,” said Indira Karki, the deputy mayor.
The problem not just plagues squatter communities in Biratnagar, their counterparts in Dhading also have a similar story.
In Salyantar of Dhading, 39 squatter families also don’t have enough to eat. The members of the community settled in Salyantar after they had to leave their landslide-prone settlements in the northern part of the district
“We are rationing our food supplies, but soon we will run out of stock,” said Kanchha Lama, a resident of the settlement.
Shambhu Kumar Thapa, chairman of Tripurasundari Rural Municipality, said that his office will provide food packages to the daily wage earners soon.