Families of daily wage earners, impoverished Dalit communities in Province 2 deprived of reliefs even after three weeks of nationwide lockdownMost of the local bodies are yet to implement the budget released by the provincial executive for relief distribution even after three weeks of the lockdown.
Jagadish Mahato of Gair in Kabilasi Municipality, Sarlahi, is the sole bread earner for his 12-member family—his wife and 10 children. The nationwide lockdown has put him out of work for the past three weeks. His savings, in cash and kind, is already spent.
“I’ve been borrowing food and cash from local shopkeepers, neighbours and relatives,” said Jagadish. “But how long can this go on for?”
Hundreds of families from impoverished communities in several districts of Province 2 are hit hardest by the protracted lockdown enforced to prevent the outbreak of Covid-19. The breadwinners of these families are daily wage workers and they have lost their source of income due to the lockdown, making it difficult for them to make ends meet.
The authorities concerned are yet to reach out to these settlements with reliefs.
To provide relief to the families hit hardest by the lockdown, the provincial government had provided Rs 1 million to Rs 2.5 million to each local unit for the procurement and distribution of relief. However, it has been more than three weeks since the lockdown started and most of the local bodies are yet to implement the budget.
“I am more worried about how to fill out stomachs than contracting the disease right now. I heard the government is providing relief through the local bodies, but nobody has come to our settlement so far,” said Mahato.
Most of the local units in all eight districts of the province have spent the last three weeks assessing data of those in need of government relief. Incidents of irregularities and biases in relief distribution are frequently reported, leaving the destitute people without any government help.
There are a total of 136 local units, including a metropolis, in the province.
Officials at Kabilashi Municipality in Sarlahi have admitted to the delay in relief distribution.
“We are still assessing data of the needy families to distribute relief. We have been unable to work efficiently due to a lack of employees in the municipality,” said Mayor Kaushal Kishwor Yadav.
Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City, the provincial capital, has also yet to begin relief distribution. According to Gopal Regmi, the chief administrative officer of the sub-metropolis, only 12 wards of a total of 25 have sent their list of beneficiaries so far. He said the sub-metropolis has decided to provide a relief package of 15 kg rice, 1.5 kg pulses, 3 kg potatoes and 1 kg salt to each affected household in the first phase.
“The packages could not be distributed as the ward chiefs failed to submit the list of the beneficiaries on time,” he said.
In Rautahat, Chandrapur Municipality has decided to provide 20 kg rice along with other essentials to each household of daily wage workers and impoverished Dalits. But the municipality has so far distributed relief at ward No. 3 only.
“The relief distribution got halted because people from well-to-do families also came forward claiming the relief package. We will soon finalise the list of beneficiaries and start distribution again,” said Sanjaya Kafle, chief of ward No. 5 in the municipality.
“The local units should work promptly in distributing relief to the needy. But the people’s representatives have shown poor management and leadership qualities in these difficult times,” said Raj Kumar Raut Kurmi, a civil society leader in Siraha.
In Aahale of Siraha, there are 21 impoverished families of landless Musahars, and none of them has received any relief from the government so far. Sixty-year-old Sudawa Musahar and his wife Devi, daily wage workers, said they haven’t had work since the lockdown started and are running out of food and essentials.
“We are managing food by borrowing from neighbours but if the lockdown continues, we might face starvation,” Sudawa told the Post.
(Om Prakash Thakur in Sarlahi, Bharat Jarghamagar in Siraha, Shyam Sundar Shashi in Janakpur and Shiva Puri in Rautahat reported the story.)
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 26, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,589,712 people with 347,903 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 144,950 with 4,172 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.