Now, It has been 15 days since the government announced a curfew. Before the government’s announcement people started buying things for their basic needs. Most of the public and private companies have paid their employees for the month of March. But, our people bought household items as much as they could by including this money also.
But, what about the daily workers…? As they do not have a permanent job, they earn on a daily basis. Savings a huge amount of money is not possible in their lifestyle. On the other hand, though goods and household items are very expensive than a normal day’s price, people wait in a long line and clear them quickly. Now, the poor people are unable to afford such amount of money for buying things for a long period. Then, as we all say “let’s fight together”, how can the vulnerable group survive and defeat the Coronavirus crisis..?
Again, on the 20th of March, People were rushing to buy goods when the curfew was temporarily subsided after two days of implementation. They were even not aware and understand the reason why these kinds of activities taken by the government. Thus, they were not worried about the social distancing at all and kept ignoring following the instructions which were given by health care officers. Further, a person sadly had identified with the symptoms of the COVID 19. Result, unlike the other areas, the curfew was continued for Jaffna district.
During this curfew time, some of the corner shops were opened in villages. Here and there some vegetables and goods were sold on roadsides. But, suddenly all the shops got closed when the government did tight the curfew. People who were on the roads got arrested and punished by Srilankan police and army forces.
A few days later, the public knew that there was a problem in selling or buying things. After this problem was taken into account, the government introduced a new system to deliver essential stuffs at their doors. It includes groceries, vegetables and pharmaceuticals. However, this mechanism has not helped the poor people. The small and also well-established traders use this mechanism for increasing their profit instead of helping others. The prices go higher and higher above the control price and the reason which is given by the businessmen is “can not do anything, no products are in stock”. Still, the government continuously says that there is no need to panic, have enough products.
Previously the spinach was sold for 30 rupees, but just in 2 days (during the curfew) it had gone up to 50 rupees and now it sells for 80 Rs. Coconut oil which was sold for 350 rupees has now increased to 400 rupees. The milk powder which was around 380 rupees is now being sold for 450 rupees.
So far, none of the stores, “selling the goods for the control price” have found yet with 100 rupees of tinned fish, 10 rupees of egg or the 65 rupees of dhal. By contrast, it’s so higher than the retail sold price.
While the information is shared on social media that “local farmers are unable to market their products”, the person who brings his vegetables to our homes tells us very high prices. In this situation, an ordinary man has to buy them for the price whatever they say. As every family has children, pregnant ladies or elderly people, they have to take full care of them. The same story applies in pharmaceutical products. The price of each single commodity has gone up by 10 or 20 rupees. Now, the government approved pharmacies distribute to their client’s home. But, the people who have got the products say that their prices were also slightly high. There is a fact that the cost of service is higher than a normal day.
Recently Sri Lankan government announced that they are going to give 10,000 rupees for the ‘Samurdi’ beneficiaries. It would give 5000 rupees in the first phase, but many of the beneficiaries have not received the money yet. In some areas, the money has only given to certain families. There are some reports say that wasted food is also provided in some areas. However, people do not have any choice; they have to do accept them, considering their family situation.
Further, non- Samurdi beneficiaries such as auto drivers, daily workers should be taken in account. We are in the grip of a disease, we need to think and treat others in a good way and need to make sure that they are also safe and healthy. Then only, we can fight together against this virus and make our society happy. At present, the government has said that criticizing a public officer is a crime. Then, how can these mistakes be pointed out and corrected..?
The state says, fishing is allowed during this curfew. But, what does happen in ground, the fisherman comes to the road, with his fishes to sell, but the policemen do not even allow him to sell them. The government says, farming is allowed but the farmers who go to their vegetable garden policemen do not allow them.
If this curfew will continue like this, not only the daily workers but the employees who worked in the private sector also have to face challenges. As the private companies have no income for months, they also may not pay their employees. Finally, above 80% of the population of Srilanka will be forced to face hunger.
Though the government is ready to deliver goods to the door, people do not have enough money in their hands to buy them. Thus, they can not go out as a series of curfews are in effect. The curfew has been put in place in Jaffna for a long period as people keep ignoring the hygiene practices and social distancing. But, it can be found that in the areas where the curfew was loosened also no people rushing to buy goods, it means “people have not enough money”.
Volunteers are doing their best with the help of their friends and some groups, to give a hand that cannot fulfill their daily food needs. But, the question is that can all level of people get such aids..? Further, the countries out of Srilanka are also heavily affected by this virus. Therefore, the help of the Diaspora is also sufficient for a few days only.
In fact, our volunteers do the works which one has to be done by the government. The young activists get together and work hard to deliver goods for the families which are in very poor condition. The state should have respected them, but instead the policemen arrested the volunteers at Kodikamam while they were working for the society. After the incident, many youngsters began to stay away from these activities.
Nowadays, we can hear some news that people steal vegetables and coconuts as they do not have enough money to buy them in a shop. If it continues, small shops and co-operative societies might be broken and stolen at night.
The World Health Organization instructs to follow the social distance. The Government says to do self-isolate with greater concern. Actually, we have started to walk away from the society without humanity.
Social integration is the one and only way to recover soon from a disaster. But, in this case, there is no hope for integrating the society because of the series of curfews. On the other hand, if the curfew is loosened undoubtedly the growth of infection will suddenly increase. Therefore, it is going to be continued and will take at least 30 or 40 days. So, in one aspect, if the curfew continues the society would recover very soon, but the other side sadly they may die because of hunger.
Translated : Mugilnila