The stories of survival of urban middle-class men and women who were laid off from work during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 are going viral on social media.
Jawad Kovoor, an entrepreneur from Calicut, posted an Instagram story of his struggles amidst the pandemic with a quote, "India is going to confront entrepreneurs' suicides just like farmers' suicide." The story about his struggles to make ends meet has been shared by many on Instagram.
"I opened a new apparel store with lots of expectations to feature new fashion trends in clothing but the lockdown disrupted my dreams and now I am struggling to pay my employees their wages and shop rent," he says.
"I try to give salary to my workers every day by cutting down on my necessities. However, a few who are jobless harass the workers. They purchase things from my shop, take photos of the crowd inside, and share it to groups with a caption 'Shops are open without Social Distancing'. I do not know who authorized such people," he adds.
Sarjas, who owns an apparel shop in the grand bazaar, Calicut, says, "We purchased dress materials abundantly from different spots but failed to sell those due to the sudden lockdown and pandemic outbreak. The stocks have become dead stock for months because the season based sale failed to reach the target on account of Government protocol. Now the shops are open but we are supposed to close on time. Unfortunately, nobody is visiting our store. There are fewer functions and people prefer sitting at home concerned about their safety."
Vinitha, 40-year-old, was a salesgirl at a ladies sandals' store prior to the pandemic and brought home 5000 a month. It was a small but valued supplement to her husband's earnings. While she was ousted from the store without further notifications, her husband's Income has been meagre. Savings have almost dried up. "Resuming work with a good salary is more like a dream now," she added.
Prakashan, a bus driver, sells carrots by the road. Public transport has become less frequent and can take in a lesser number of people owing to the demands of social distancing. "We don't get enough to fill fuel. We have to take other jobs to survive in this unexpected situation," he says.
India's working class has been hit most by this slowdown. COVID-19 came as a blow to the aspirations of millions of middle-class people and worsened India's economic affliction since early 2020. Unemployment figures are also high amongst the middle class, engaged in salaried jobs primarily in urban and semi-urban regions.