The men who cleared the drains of silt so that the rains don’t cause flooding and water-borne diseases such as leptospirosis. The electricians who came to fix breakdowns caused by wind and rain. The sanitation workers who used to spray neighbourhoods with mosquito repellent before the monsoon to prevent vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya. All are missing even though the monsoon officially arrived last weekend.
Lots of other “wallahs” are also gone: the chai wallah pouring out steaming masala tea from old-fashioned metal teapots, the juice wallah serving oxidant-rich pomegranate juice, the press wallah who ironed your clothes and delivered them, neatly folded and wrapped inside a sheet like a gift, to your door, and the autorickshaw wallah who dropped your child off at school.
For the first time in 125 years, most of the 5,000 dabbawallas have gone home to their villages, defeated by the virus and the lockdown.
industrialists are also frustrated. They are gearing up for business again as the city gradually starts easing the lockdown but cannot find guards, technicians, electricians, sweepers, packers or assembly-line workers.Foundries, mills, shops and malls are looking for labour. Construction of roads, flyovers and metro lines is delayed. Half-built buildings need to be finished
Everyone is gone!!
“Migrant workers accept less pay, longer hours and harsher working conditions. Local people will not tolerate this – they have a sense of justice, are rooted in society and enjoy social support. Migrant labourers are herded into factories and hostels and feel cut off and isolated from the society around them,” […]
“Most of them aren’t coming back. First they were treated like slaves by employers and then they were treated like stray dogs by society during the lockdown. Some, perhaps, may return. But only if they are starving,” said Karad.