Emerging fear and financial crisis in Ghazipur
Osama Manzar, Founder and Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation spoke with Amit Chandra Jha—who is a Project Officer of Smartpur project run by DEF in Ghazipur, U.P. Amit works towards helping people and communities in all possible ways and links them through digital connectivity. U.P. being the most affected and populated state, it is interesting to find how people from the ground have worked towards surmounting the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
“The immediate effect of lockdown on the villagers is that—it has become extremely difficult for them to step out of their respective homes, even for urgent requirements. The daily wagers are the most affected group. The farmers are not able to sell their produce.
The police don’t allow anybody to step out—and if anybody is found violating the orders, he/she is physically harassed and heavily penalised. The shopkeepers sometime evade government orders and open their shops even after the designated hours, because the biggest reality is—how will people eat without earning. Distribution of the essentials isn’t a solution. At the most the government will send food packets which will have rice, wheat, oil and spices—but one will have to step out to buy vegetables, milk etc.—and take their cattle to the fields to feed them.
People have to mandatorily wear masks while going out, but the less educated constantly break the rules out of carelessness or lack of awareness. Besides, the masks are sold for Rs 50 a piece in the market and are not affordable for the poor.
Post janta curfew, we thought things will get back to normal, but the lockdown has been extended until 3rd of May. This has created an unusual fear in the villager’s minds. There is a constant fear of what will happen next? Will Corona consume us all?
Nevertheless, people are confined to their respective homes, protecting themselves and others from the infection.
The government has also come forward with schemes to support the poor. Schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojna is providing the poor with Rs 500 per month for three consecutive months. The ones who hold rations cards are supported with an amount of Rs 1000 per month. Under Ujjawala Yojna, people will get free LPG for 3 months, which is likely to be extended by the government. The beneficiaries under Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna will get a sum of Rs 2000 per month for the next three months.
Even if a few people don’t have government ID cards or any other identity card or are not beneficiaries of any scheme, the U.P. government has decided to provide them with Rs 1000 per month—and this will be made available to them through the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Chief Development Officer.
However, there are bureaucratic problems and we have requested Village Pradhan to help the poor people of the village in getting ration—irrespective of them being a ration card holder or not.”
As ‘Digital Entrepreneurs’ we have been asked to organise health camps in our centres, which have been converted into COVID-19 awareness camps. To educate people, we have created posters—communicating how to wash hands, sanitize and other dos and don’ts—and have them placed outside the camps.
Secondly, we have also created an online group for the students who visited centres— and we have added IT-Preneurs and teachers to the group—to continue teaching at least five students from each centre.