Covid in India: Lockdown pushes middle class towards poverty

From losing jobs to having to change vocations to make ends meet, Covid lockdowns have changed the lives of India's middle class


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A health worker collects a swab sample from a roadside vendor to test for Covid-19 during a weekend lockdown in Jammu. — AP
A health worker collects a swab sample from a roadside vendor to test for Covid-19 during a weekend lockdown in Jammu. — AP

Published: Sun 30 Jan 2022, 11:01 PM

As the nation fought Covid-19 through lockdowns, the impact they had on the pockets of the middle-class is immense. From losing jobs to having to change vocations to make ends meet, lockdowns pushed this section of society towards poverty.

Hussain Ali, 46, who worked at a private organisation in Haryana, lost his job during the lockdown. Compelled by the circumstances, he began selling peas, paneer and chaap on a pushcart on the streets of Delhi.

Ali said: “I used to work at Sunrise International at the time the pandemic began. The company gave us a salary for a few months while we were at home, but after 4-5 months, they asked us to begin looking for other jobs.”

“They were not able to give us salaries. For many months we sat at home because of the lockdown. I was feeling miserable when I lost my job and getting a new job was difficult because of the Covid situation,” he added.


As the savings were drying out, Ali decided to take up street hawking.

“Earlier, when I used to work in the company, I had a good position and would earn Rs20,000. After over time, I would receive about Rs30,000 as salary. Work was good and days were passing by without any struggle,” he reminisced.

“When I lost my job during the lockdown, I had to do something. Even if I was getting other job opportunities, they were just paying Rs10-12,000. No one is giving more than that,” Ali said.

Hussain Ali is the sole breadwinner of a family of seven and was forced to shift his children to government schools post-Covid lockdown.

The weekend curfews brought the business Ali started to a halt. He said: “I want to get a job as I had earlier. The work I am doing right now is uncertain; it gets disturbed whenever restrictions like weekend curfews are imposed. The work comes to halt at such times.”

“The situation at home is depleting, but we have to survive,” he said.

Sharing a similar ordeal, Ramesh Kumar, a 58-year-old who was a headwaiter at Delhi Golf Club has also been unemployed for the past two years due to the Covid lockdown.

On May 28, 2020, he received a message stating the full and final settlement.

“I started working in 1986 in Delhi Golf Club. There was no problem during the time I worked. My house was running smoothly; my children were studying and there was no problem. Then came 2020 and the lockdown was imposed. The company cleared our dues and removed 66 people,” Kumar said.

His children too were also living off of half their salaries during the pandemic.

“There were no jobs earlier and then this lockdown; it has ruined everyone’s lives and not just that of the middle classes. There are no jobs in the market right now,” he said.

“The situation is such that there is no income. We even asked for a reduction in salaries so that at least the job sustains. After all, who is going to give me a job now? There is a certain age to get employment. Does anyone give employment to people after the age of 40-45 years?” he further said while adding that the family is sustaining on whatever income two of his sons get.

Concerned about what the future has in store for his family, Kumar said: “Lockdown has finished our future. Our lives have been ruined. There are no jobs.”

“Imagine what could be the situation at our home. We are just passing our time. Who is going to listen to our cries?” he added.

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