Self-respect is preventing many people from seeking help even as the relentless lockdown brings them to the brink of destitution
Srinagar: Neither the government nor philanthropic groups have been approached by those people who for the first time in their life find themselves without money or any means of income. A sense of self-respect and a fear of being shamed by society are the main reasons why such people have chosen to hide their destitution.
The relentless lockdown in Kashmir due to coronavirus has rendered countless people jobless and compelled to eat up their savings. While many have sought relief and help from others, some have chosen to somehow survive on their own. They told Kashmir Reader that they have not sought any help due to self-respect, lest they be stigmatised as beggars or borrowers.
One of them is a plumber, a resident of Amira Kadal in Srinagar. This person has four family members, two of whom are school-going kids. Ever since he can remember, he never felt short of money. He has to pay the school fees of his two children, he has to arrange food on the table, but he has no money.
“It is for the first time that I have no money left. All that I had is spent. I don’t know how to reach out for help. I cannot do it because I have never done it. Asking somebody for help is like killing my self-respect,” he said.
It is not just the coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government that has brought people like him to such a situation. Last year in August began a lockdown that lasted six months. Before that, the 2016 uprising shut down the economy for months.
In Habba Kadal area, a key maker from Haryana is struggling just like the native Kashmiri. Though his landlord has waived the rent of his flat, he still has to feed himself and his five-member family in Haryana, which includes four children, all studying.
For the past two months, he has not earned a single penny. When the lockdown was announced on March 18, he had with him a few thousand rupees. These were exhausted within two weeks. Since then, no one has offered him help, nor has he sought help from anyone.
Another example is of a seven-member family of a rag cart puller, living at Narbal on Srinagar outskirts. The sole bread earner, in mid-fifties, the cart puller suffers from a prostrate disease for which he has to consume medicine regularly. Had he lived close to the main city, where a philanthropic group offers medicine to the needy free of cost, perhaps he could have availed of the charity. His son, who studies in Class 11, says that they cannot travel to Srinagar due to the strict lockdown. The SKIMS hospital, where he goes to for treatment, is also not accessible to him.
“We are in dire straits,” his son told Kashmir Reader over phone.
The plumber, the key maker, and the rag cart puller, all of them living hand to mouth, have not received any government help either.
Sahil Ahmad, a BTech student, has offered help to more than 600 persons, so far, most of them referred to him by strangers. When he learnt about the condition of these three persons, he transferred cash into their bank account on his own.
“I have received shocking information about people in desperate need, who yet did not approach anyone for help. I have received calls from unknown persons who gave me contact numbers and bank account details of needy people. Such people were very reluctant to speak of their misery but I gained their confidence,” Sahil told Kashmir Reader.
“They are afraid of getting into touch with anybody because they fear the society will attach a stigma to them,” he added.
Sahil said that when the lockdown confined him to home, he started looking for ways to help people. He decided to transfer money directly into the accounts of needy people as the best way to help.