By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started wreaking havoc on people’s lives, much is being said about the services of many agencies like the doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, para-medical staff, Police personnel, Health Department staff and the humble civic service workers. As we have all seen in the very recent past, our netas and top-level officials somehow manage to find themselves a prime slot in the limelight on their own, without any outside help! It is really sad that mistaking notoriety for fame, some people would rather be seen as notorious than remain unknown!
But there is a completely different kind of service that is being rendered by another large brigade of very dedicated but humble souls and whose contribution to society we have taken for granted. Nobody talks of them and although we see them dashing around us on their two-wheelers from dawn to dusk, their toil is going completely unnoticed and unrecognised in our society. I am speaking of the thousands of home delivery boys, who run around on their two-wheelers picking up our food packets from their sources and delivering them, hot and steaming, to our doorsteps without our having to step out of the safety of our homes.
Another kind of service that has been started recently is of the same people running errands at our beck and call and getting us even our most ordinary day-to-day household requirements from the shops we specify. They also deliver things from one place to another thus carrying food packets from people’s homes to their work places and even from patients’ homes to the hospitals where they are admitted. A very remarkable kind of service indeed because it makes our lives so much easier.
Governments across our country have been announcing relief packages to almost all classes and categories of people but we do not hear of any such aid to these souls. Thankfully and very ironically, only COVID has been kind to them! I say this because now that we are all shut in our homes without being able to visit our favourite eating out places, these are the souls who keep us and our children happy and well fed by delivering our favourite dishes to our homes.
So ever since the pandemic started, their work and their earnings too have increased significantly. But along with this have also increased the risk to their lives, both from road accidents and from the greatly increased chances of them picking up the COVID infection itself through widespread contact. And, because they are largely an unorganised class of people, they do not have the shelter of any welfare schemes or any kind of medical insurance to help them in their times of need. This is a lacuna that needs to be addressed by the Government at the earliest.
At least they should all be included under some kind of basic group medical insurance scheme to ensure that they and their families do not find themselves completely helpless if they fall sick. This is of utmost importance because every one of them, without any exception, is in this line of work because they come from very poor families. Most of them do not even have their own vehicles and to earn some money while there is a demand for this kind of work, many of them are managing with vehicles they have hired legally or illegally.
A few of them whom I spoke to said that half of what they earn goes towards the rather high rent they have to pay for their vehicles. A few others said that they were able to hire private vehicles from friends and relatives only because their owners themselves were either working from home or entirely without work due to the lockdown.
So once the lockdown is lifted, they are bound to find themselves on the streets but without the means to earn their livelihood! Some kind of an arrangement to give them easy bank loans or even some subsidies to procure vehicles would be of great help in keeping them smiling as they go about their jobs helping people to smile!
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