Lost Livelihoods

J&K administration has placed five districts  in the ‘red category’  as part of its classification for Covid containment in the union territory whereby the districts were categorized as red, orange and green zones. The districts in red category are Pulwama and Anantnag in south Kashmir,  Baramulla and Kupwara in north and Budgam in central Kashmir. The categorisation followed a detailed review of the current Covid situation by the Jammu and Kashmir State Executive Committee (SEC) on Saturday. The committee took on board the spread of the infection trend in new cases, particularly the test positivity rate, the risk perception of the health department viz-a-viz each district and the need to further control the spread of COVID-19. The categorizations would be followed for the purpose of implementation of permitted activities in the respective districts.

After a month-long lockdown, the people are looking towards the government to unlock parts of the economy. The curfew-like situation has once again battered the businesses and left thousands of people jobless, more so, the people from the marginalized sections of the society. With fresh infections dropping markedly over the last week, the administration can take steps to incrementally open up the economy and let people work. But while doing so, its focus should be the daily wage workers who have suffered the most and they are spread across the professions and occupations. The worst victims of the pandemic and the lockdown include the lowly workers associated with tourism. Or for that matter the drivers and conductors of the passenger vehicles. They have been hit hard over the last two years, so much so that some of them have resorted to begging to feed their families.

So, while deciding the future course of action, the administration should take steps to ease the terrible plight of the poorest section of the society. The lockdown should be relaxed in a way that paves the way for the daily wage workers to earn their livelihood. Any further delay in doing so will worsen their plight.

At the same time, the government needs to focus on expediting vaccination to reign in the pandemic. Sadly, fewer vaccines are available in Kashmir now.  A large section of the population that has got its first dose is struggling to get the second, among them the elderly people. Locking people and businesses down without simultaneously speeding up the vaccination will not make much of a difference to the current state of affairs. On the contrary, the lockdown would kill livelihoods and be a cure worse than the disease.

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