A photo shared by one of the stranded from Nagaland, shows people crammed into a 2BHK apartment in Bangalore to tide over the lockdown.
‘For how long can we survive on hand-outs?’
Dimapur | May 8
As the nationwide lockdown ensues and India’s COVID-19 count increases, anxiety is also mounting in equal measure, especially the people stranded in other states.
The Nagaland state government starting the process to return its stranded domiciles home has come as a breather to thousands of working Naga professionals stranded across India. But it fell short of putting a timeframe as to when the process of bringing back the stranded would actually begin.
By evening on May 8, the government’s iamstranded web portal had received around 9000 entries and increasing. According to Shanavas C, the Nodal Officer for Nagaland citizens stranded in other states, the “Empowered Committee” will work on the data once the registration process completes and will make appropriate arrangements.
Meanwhile, stranded working professionals, who have been rendered unemployed, are counting their days virtually surviving on charitable hand-outs.
The Morung Express reached out to some of the stranded to get a sense of their predicament.
“For the time being we are managing but how long can we go on without earning?” was a common refrain from the stranded, many of whom were salaried before the lockdown took effect.
Imnaienla Aier (28 years), who worked at a salon in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, shares a one-room apartment with her colleague. The salon has been shut since the lockdown and with it the salary stopped too.
Without any earning she said that she wishes to return home. “We have not paid the rent and power bill for two months. To tide over, we have been asking from home but this too cannot continue for long,” she said.
She added that she has not received the Nagaland government’s Rs 4,000 for stranded working professionals although she had registered.
Further, they have an ailing friend, who was identified as Azungla. According to Aier, Azungla was on a visit to Ahmedabad and staying with them when the country went into lockdown. She fell ill about two weeks back and taken to a hospital but was refused admission because of the COVID-19 situation. She had to be brought back to the apartment after the routine check in the OPD.
On May 8, they could manage to get in touch with a doctor in Nagaland. Based on the symptoms, the doctor prescribed medication but Aier said that going out to get medicine was another challenge altogether.
Tsurila Yimchunger, who runs a café and a salon in Ahmedabad, expressed concern for people like Aier. “I am concerned for their welfare and have been helping them out with whatever is within my means but I am also limited by the resources at hand,” she said.
According to her, if the Nagaland government is not in a position to arrange transport for sending the stranded home, it should atleast identify those who have lost their jobs and help them pay the pending bills.
As to her condition, she could only manage to pay the power bill, while house rent was pending. As to her business, she said that fortunately there is a rent waiver for small business owners in Gujarat.
According to a conservative estimate, there are around 700 Nagas in Gujarat, of which around 600 are employed in the hospitality sector.
Down south in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 32 year-old K Atoka Zhimomi is counting the days in lockdown with no salary. A hair stylist at a salon, Zhimomi said that he is currently staying in a room provided by his employer with three other colleagues from Siliguri. He said that in April, their employer provided them food and cooking oil but was yet to receive any for the month.
He expressed concerned that he would be left to fend for himself once his colleagues leave for their homes through transportation arranged by the West Bengal government. Further, he said that he has not received the monetary aid from the Nagaland government though he had registered.
“Initially my intention was to stay put but it appears that my work place would not open until October. I am running out of money, I have no choice but to return to Nagaland. I am well aware of the 21 days mandatory quarantine for returnees and am ready to be quarantined,” he said.
Of the around 10 people from Nagaland in Madurai, he is said to be only one working, while the others are students.
In Bangalore, Renchio Jami (25 years), also a hair stylist, is staying in a 2BHK flat shared by students from Meghalaya and Nagaland. He found a job in a salon, which was set to open in April, and was staying in a Paying Guest paid for by his to-be employer. But the lockdown happened and he had to move out of the PG.
“I know two students in the flat where I am currently staying. I moved in with them. I am sharing the bills but it has been 2 months without salary,” he said.