Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bhubaneswar: As Odisha enters into the second week of 14-day lockdown clamped to contain the spread of COVID19, people, particularly the lower middle class section of the society who depend on their salary, wages and small businesses to earn a morsel of food for family, suddenly find themselves in a conundrum. It became difficult for them to decide whether to stay in home to secure itself from the Coronavirus and starve to death or go out in search of food risking its life.

However, the government made the decision for them by clamping a state-wide lockdown hitting their earnings hard.

A Deja-Vu hit Prashant Kumar Das, a Restaurant employee at Bhubaneswar, who fears that his employer will not be able to pay him salary this month owing to the lockdown. “During last year’s lockdown I was left starving for food. Many nights had passed without food. Thought, this year will be different, but the same lockdown haunts us again,” he said.

“Online food aggregators are the only hope through which the restaurant is doing a little business, but that will not suffice the restaurant owner to afford so many employees. We will have to work without pay until the situation normalises and the restrictions lifted,” Das added.

Similarly, another woman, Purnaprabha Sahu from Bangali Sahi in Cuttack had opened a roadside tea stall in front of Bharatiya Tower at Badambadi. Following the death of her husband, the tea stall was the only source of income for her family of four that included three school-going teenaged daughters. The lockdown came as a big blow for her as she fears if she could be able to pay the house rent next month.

“Forget about food or studies of my daughters, I do not even know where I will get the money to pay rent,” Sahu said.

Not only the lower middle class people in the twin cities, but some of the reputed Pattachitra artisans in the pilgrim town of Puri too are bothered by the lockdown. Some of them even contemplating to leave the art work and sell vegetables in the market to earn a living.

Some of them thought that the year 2021 will bring fortunes to them as the tourists had just started rolling down, but the COVID 2nd wave and the subsequent lockdown swept away all their hopes to gutter. “It has become almost impossible for us to earn a livelihood by creating Pattachitras. Since cyclone Fani, it has been almost 2 and a half years, we never got a chance to stand straight. Our economic back bone has broken,” said Saroj Kumar Behera, an artist from Puri.