The lockdowns enforced by several countries in response to COVID-19 have closed thousands of businesses, causing innumerous job losses. This is the case for thirty five year old Alamelu, a daily wage labourer at a hotel in Karur, Tamilnadu. Alamelu’s husband, Mariappan also lost his job as a daily wage labourer at a nearby bakery. With the loss of both incomes and a young son to care for, this family was scared for their future. Before the lockdown, their lives were managed paycheck to paycheck. After the lockdown, the family had no income and were in desperate need of a ration card. The importance of possessing a ration card was unknown to Alamelu and her husband before the pandemic, and after the lockdown began, the process to obtain one was stuck. The completion of an application and the obtainment of a ration card could only be done after the lockdown. This left Alamelu and her family with no income and without a ration card which provided government aid. A few neighbors and acquaintances offered their help, but with the financial hardship caused by the worldwide shutdown, the aid only lasted about a week. The family had no money and nothing to eat, going for three successive days without any food.
Some neighbors who worked at the local mill informed the manager of the Swasti Factory Workers Program of Alamelu’s family’s misfortune. The matter was taken to state leaders and arrangements were made to give Alamelu Rs.1000 immediately. The family was very grateful for the aid and used the money to buy groceries. Alamelu quoted, “without this money we would have been forced to ask people for food or money to buy food”. The monetary help was crucial to the family, as it helped them to sustain their home until the lockdown restrictions were relaxed and Alamelu was able to return to work.
Stories of families like Alamelu are not uncommon in the frightening, uncertain times of a pandemic and nation wide lockdowns. Many daily wage labourers have no income and no other aid during lockdown periods and without ration cards, their families are left with nothing. It is important to be aware of aid organizations and resources available to help to keep families like Alamelu safe during these pressing times.
Contributors: Ratnagiri, Sharadha Devanth, Destry Jensen