‘It Is Humiliating, But I Accept Food Donations For Kids’

Sarvesh Kumar, 29, a factory guard in Greater Noida, wasn’t paid his two-month salary due to the lockdown. He finds living on charity humiliating but has accepted it to feed his family

I never thought I would see such days in my life when I would need donated food to survive. Not long ago, I had registered myself with a private security agency in Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh). The agency deputed me to a private factory as a guard. My wife and two young children – one is three-year old and another one-year – also settled with me. Then this virus outbreak and the sudden lockdown turned our lives upside down.

When the factory downed shutters, and I saw migrant labourers leaving for their native places, I too planned to back to my native Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh. However, I was yet to receive my salary and other dues from the contractor. Initially, my supervisor kept delaying the payments at one or the other pretext. But when I ran out of even daily ration, and asked him for my money firmly, he told me he doesn’t have the money to pay. Nor could he commute in the lockdown to provide me food items.

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When I told him about my little children going hungry, he became abusive. I know this is a crime to default on an employee’s salary, so I went to the local police chowki to file a written complaint but all in vain. The policemen hounded me out and told me not to come out and stay put wherever I was till the lockdown ended.

It was when I was returning from the police station disheartened, some apartment dwellers spotted me walking in the sun. They asked about my situation and offered some packets of biscuits and water. As I narrated my story, they even arranged some dry ration for my family.

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I never wanted to live on charity but this situation is critical. I don’t have land or farms back home. If I can find work, I am ready to labour for 24 hours to feed my children. It is humiliating when I see my children cry with hunger and I have little to offer.

Security guards of nearby industries often help me with food and milk. I don’t want it for free as it makes me feel like a beggar. Yet, I am accepting all such donations because of my children. I don’t know for how long I will survive like this. I want to work and earn money. 

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When the lockdown was imposed, I never thought such a situation would arise. I am grateful to the people who are helping me but I want to request the government to help people like me feed their children. I want this lockdown to end soon. I am worried about my children. If this continues, people like me will be forced to go out on streets in search of food.

‘I Wish To Work But Lockdown Has Made Me A Beggar’

Mehtab Ali, 34, a construction worker, lives in a makeshift shanty of Greater Noida West. Jobless after the lockdown, Ali is forced to live on charity

I came to Greater Noida five years back with my wife and two children in search of better livelihood. Life was not easy in West Bengal. We migrated to Greater Noida with the help of a local contractor, who provided construction labour to several builders.

My only dream is to send both of my children to school and give them a respectable life. I don’t want them to become a labourer like me. Both my wife and I worked in the construction projects here towards that goal.

But as the market (real estate sector) dwindled, so did our income. Sometimes, projects were abandoned due to various reasons. We had little savings but were somehow making two ends when this lockdown was announced.

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In less than ten days, we had run out of ration and our savings. Many of our fellow workers had left on foot but we cannot imagine reaching our native place with two young children.

Now we are totally dependent on the doles from the well-meaning residents in nearby apartment, police and the government which are providing basic supplies to the poor who have stayed put.

We don’t want anything for free; we want to work and earn money; after all that is why we came here all the way from our hometown in West Bengal. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than watching our children go to sleep hungry.

There are some community kitchens providing food packets here but they don’t give more than one packet to one person. A family of four cannot survive in such a small quantity of food. We need ration and fuel to cook. That is all we need as of now.

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We don’t know what the future has in store for us. Will the contractors and builders give our jobs back after the lockdown? For how long will this lockdown will continue? The builders are rich people. We are the ones who built their projects with hard labour but in these difficult times they have abandoned us.

If we continue to live like this, we will be termed nothing more than beggars. We are labourers but we have self esteem. We don’t want free food. The government must think about people like us. There are thousands like me who are left with nothing after they become jobless in one stroke.

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When the strict lockdown was imposed, the police initially hounded some local residents who were trying to distribute ration. If the locals don’t help us fearing the cops, then who will? The situation is critical for us. We didn’t go home after the lockdown like thousands of daily wagers as we have small kids and our home is too far to be walked on foot. But if we are forced to live like this, we will have no other option than walking back home with our kids.