India's Underprivileged are Scorched by the Heat, and Inflation
Spend a day with the workers to know
India is witnessing record-breaking heat waves these summers and retail inflation, which jumped to an 8-year high at 7.79% in April. While the current circumstances are worrying, it is challenging to expect relief in the foreseeable future. As per India Ratings and Research, inflation is set to average a 9-year high at 6.9 percent in the next fiscal year, FY23. Based on the statistics, a similar prediction can be made about the heatwaves that are to be frequent in the coming time.
Since this double whammy of heat and inflation is hitting the daily wage workers hard, The Citizen spoke to the daily wage workers of Delhi. Here is what we discovered as we collected photo data and details on the plight of the underprivileged who go out and work in scorching heat, only to make their ends meet.
Most of the work of the daily wage workers is outdoors, and they are battling the scorching sun, along with Delhi's worsened air pollution. A recent report published in The Lancet Planetary Health, stated that 16.7 lakh deaths occurred due to air pollution in the country. It said pollution was most severe in the areas such as New Delhi, as it falls in the Indo-Gangetic plain region. Therefore, it is not just inflation and heat waves that brutally affect India's underprivileged lives.
Praveen Patil (52) is an auto-driver in the Nawada region of West Delhi. Though Patil is not the sole earner of his family, his wife's medical expenses are a costly deal. He also has to pay an EMI of Rs 11,000 for his auto-rickshaw that he purchased second-hand a few years ago. He explains that the sky-rocketing prices of CNG have badly affected the auto-rickshaw drivers, as people prefer to share the rides in e-rickshaws rather than book an auto. "While CNG prices have soared to Rs 73.61, the meter prices for customers are still unrevised", said Patil.
Naresh Gautam (42) owns a tea stall near the Om-Vihar region of East Delhi. He earns Rs 10 from each cup of tea that he sells. However, he hasn't been satisfied with the work in recent times as his revenue went down drastically during the Covid period. "At that (Covid) time, I was forced to spend all my savings hoping that the circumstances may improve. However, to my shock, the prices of commodities shot up, making it difficult to feed an extended family," said Gautam.
Vikas Joshi is a minor who works at a juice shop at the Uttam Nagar West metro station. On the pollution issue that he battles every day as the juice corner is located at the main road, he said, "wearing masks is suggested because of Covid and air pollution. But, one can't wear masks all day under the burning sun and loo winds as it leaves you all sweaty and even worsens the situation." Joshi hails from the Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh and earns a meager amount of Rs 7000 a month for his round-the-clock labour.
Saroj (30) and her husband Rajendra (40) sell Kachoris near the Dwarka area. Since they can't afford an additional worker, both are present at the cart. "Due to Covid, my kids couldn't go to school for a long time. Though the schools have reopened now, I had to admit them to a government school as it is difficult to bear the expense of private schools," said Saroj. She added that they are repeatedly bothered by the MCD departments who forcibly remove their cart, "my expenses have increased, but the earnings remain stagnant."