Nagpur: District guardian minister Nitin Raut told that a review meeting will be convened on Saturday on whether or not to extend the weeklong lockdown. Raut, who is in Mumbai, expressed concern over the spike in coronavirus cases in the city.
On Thursday, municipal commissioner Radhakrishnan B too had stated that Raut would convene a meeting over the issue. The civic administration hinted that with a spike in Covid-19 cases, they favored extension of the weeklong lockdown till March 29 due to Holi. They also hinted that if extended, the lockdown will be much stricter.
A police source said that the top brass has decided to recommend the extension of restrictions till March 29 which will cover Holi to ensure the festival of colors does not trigger the avoidable mingling and chaos on the streets which may undo the efforts undertaken since March 15. With the restrictions lifted, police feel that allowing citizens to enjoy Holi may boomerang, and hence it is gearing up to support the theory of retaining the curbs.
Roadside hawkers and autorickshaw drivers from Hingna have threatened to resort to an indefinite hunger strike if the administration extended the weeklong lockdown. “If the government wants to extend the lockdown then it should first provide financial assistance to roadside hawkers and autorickshaw drivers,” said Prem Kumar of Autorickshaw Chalak Malak Sangh (Hingna road).
He said as many 300 autorickshaw drivers and a similar number of hawkers will stage an indefinite agitation at Lokmanya Nagar Metro Station, near Hingna T-point.
A meeting in this regard was held on Friday evening and it was unanimously decided by the members to participate in the hunger strike.
The pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, have severely impacted the livelihood of autorickshaw drivers, hawkers, and daily wagers. “Not only our livelihood in terms of daily earnings disappeared, but we also could not service the bank loan or any other private loans leading to financial distress. Even after the phase-wise lifting of lockdown, regular users did not feel comfortable returning to their usual travel on account of keeping a safe distance. Sharing rides with other passengers is a thing of the past now,” pointed out Kumar.
Several autorickshaw owners even paid rent for parking their vehicles during the lockdown. Most of them are facing hardships in repaying their loans. Although a moratorium for loan repayments was declared till September 2020, now all financial institutions are issuing threats of proceeding with legal action if the loan is not repaid.
The situation is no different for hawkers or those who run roadside tea kiosks. Santosh Chavan and Manoj Chowdhary, both hawkers on Hingna road, slammed the civic administration and district guardian minister for not giving a thought to the livelihood of such people while imposing the weeklong lockdown. “If the lockdown is extended even for a week then we will die due to starvation,” said Chavan.
“We have decided to fight for our community,” said Chowdhary.