Essential services staff encounter difficulties in carrying out their work during confinement

From the lack of public transport to ID cards, essential service workers must overcome several obstacles when commuting to work.

Food, water, transport, healthcare and sanitation are essential to sustaining a society or a community, even during a pandemic. This means that employees engaged in these services – milk, groceries, ration stores, LPG cylinders, fruits and vegetables and meat – must continue to go to work to ensure a constant supply of these essential products.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured that essential services will continue to operate throughout the 21-day national lockdown period following the COVID-19 pandemic, the movement of vehicles across the country is strictly regulated. . Public transport, including public and private buses, have suspended operations, while auto rickshaws circulating in cities are being kept off the roads by police.

Incidentally, many employees engaged in essential services rely on public transportation to get to work and home. With confinement and vehicle traffic regulations, many are forced to stay at home or walk to work.

For example, Lakshmi, 52, a pourakarmika (sanitation worker) under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), walked from GM Palya to Indiranagar for work on Wednesday. She used to take a bus from the BEML gate, get off at the Indiranagar police station bus stop and walk for two minutes to get to the area where she works.

“As there is no bus, I walked almost 5 km to work,” she said, adding, “The BBMP contractor reassured us that this issue will be resolved in a few days. “.

An employee of the Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), who works at a Secunderabad branch in Telangana, said only those who had vehicles showed up for work on Wednesday. The bank did not impose any strict guidelines.

“We took our ID cards in case the police arrested us. Also, the bank’s hours have been reduced from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and two people work in rotation,” the bank employee told TNM .

“I take my own vehicle to the hospital,” said Dixon, who works in the accounts department of a private hospital in Ernakulam district of Kerala. “My colleagues who do not have a private vehicle have been asked to take leave and stay at home. In addition, the hospital has limited the number of employees.

The flow of supplies disrupted

A kirana store owner in Gachibowli, which is located close to Hyderabad’s IT sector, told TNM that he has been facing restrictions from the police since the lockdown was announced in the state on Sunday.

“I go to Lingampally in the morning (3.5 km from his store) to stock up on vegetables and other groceries for the day. But the police have erected barricades and won’t let us pass. What ID card can I show? Because of this, all our stock of vegetables is exhausted, although we can still supply ourselves,” he said.

“On Wednesday, after two to three days of confinement in Telangana, two autorickshaws carrying vegetables from Lingampally visited the settlement and sold them directly to customers instead of kirana shops,” he said, “But I am glad everyone was able to get their groceries one way or another.

The owner of a grocery store in Anna Nagar, Chennai also shared a similar situation.

“Retailers from companies like Unilever and P&G don’t have enough staff because many have moved to their home countries. So they want us to go to the warehouse and get the inventory. But when I came out, the police stopped me and it was difficult to explain to them why and where I was going,” the grocery store owner said.

Identity cards to travel

At a medical shop in Thiruvananthapuram, Rahul, with a mask over his mouth, told TNM that three of his colleagues were unable to get to work as they depended on public transport. “Two others had no ID showing they worked in a medical shop and had nothing to show the police when they were arrested on their way to work. So the police issued affidavits,” Rahul said.

On day 1 of the lockdown, March 25, Dixon showed his hospital ID on his way to work. “However, private vehicles have now been asked to complete an affidavit requesting details of the private vehicles and the driver and submit it. I have provided the form and intend to keep it with me when commuting,” he added.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Wednesday that in order to ensure that staff in essential service sectors can move around, owners of such private establishments could apply for special passes online for their employees, s they didn’t have an identity card.

In Bengaluru, Karnataka, traders have been told to get permits from the nearest police station to come to work and do business. “The process will become clear once we receive these slips. Clear guidelines will also be issued on the hours of these shops,” said Rammohan, who is part of the Chinmaya Mission Hospital Road Shopkeepers Association in Bengaluru.

In Telangana, authorities allow government employees and those in essential service sectors to pass by showing identity cards.

In Tamil Nadu, however, the police have not yet decided to issue such passes. “We are constantly giving instructions to all our checkpoints not to disturb or block vehicles carrying essential supplies. At the district level, we have discussed the idea of ​​issuing a vehicle pass, but this needs to be discussed at the state level,” said a senior Tamil Nadu Police official.

“People will stop buying in panic if they see that we have enough stock of items. Therefore, it is important to ensure that there is a continuous supply of inventory,” added the owner of the grocery store in Chennai.

With contributions from Nitin B, Sreedevi Jayarajan, screams, Prajwal Bhat, Theja Ram and Megha Kaveri

Michelle J. Kelley