As Odisha is fighting the second wave of the Covid-19, the State's transport ecosystem, especially the truckers, has almost come to a screeching halt and among the worst hit are its fleet owners, drivers and helpers. Similarly, small traders and business across the State have been bruised due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Undoubtedly, the longer period of lockdowns and shutdowns has led the communication sector to skid of its promising track and thereby pushing thousands of truck owners, drivers and helpers to the brink. The pandemic has hit their livelihood hard.
Truck terminal at Sunabedha in Koraput wears a deserted look as hundreds of trucks have come to a grinding halt due to the Covid restrictions. The impact of the pandemic has been so severe that most of the owners preferred to stop all work for the safety of their drivers or due to less demand in the market. Fear of the virus, no work and lack of sustenance in the cities and transportation hubs, have meant most drivers and helpers have gone back to where they belong.
“With the lockdown in effect and little certainty around the situation in coming days, the future of truckers is under dark clouds,” rued Babru Bahan Nayak, a truck owner.
The livelihood of the people associated with the industry has been hit hard. They are struggling hard even to make both their ends meet.
“We have requested the State Government to provide some financial assistance to the employees associated with the industry during this difficult time. Hopefully, the government will come forward with a helping hand,” said Sunil Agarwal, president of Odisha Truck Owners’ Association.
Meanwhile, as a result of the partial lockdown in the State and the public being advised to practice social distancing measures, small traders are staring at an unpredictable future.
The trading scene is lifeless. Small-time shopkeepers have taken the maximum hit. People are not stepping out of their homes and they have reduced consumption. In this scenario, the small traders are finding it difficult to arrange even two square meals a day. Paying bank loans and house rent has almost become impossible.
Take the case of differently-abled book seller K Gouri Shankar of Rayagada. His business has suffered badly.
“As schools and colleges are closed due to the pandemic, books are not sold anymore. I am finding it hard to run my family,” said Gouri Shankar.
The ordeal of Naveen Kumar Majhi, who owns a small roadside tiffin shop at Kasturi Nagar is no different. He was already struggling with poor sales due to Covid and rise in prices of raw materials, but somehow managed to stay afloat. However, the lockdown changed everything. With outbreak of Covid, sales had nosedived and with lockdown in force, there is uncertainty over opening their shops.
“I was not prepared at all for this year’s lockdown. I am totally helpless now. I don’t know how I will feed my family,” said Majhi.