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Medicines to food: Families struggle to sustain in lockdown

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An empty Srinagar market during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020 (File Photo: KM/Umar Ganie)

Srinagar: Inside a corner of her small kitchen, thirty-seven-year-old homemaker Yasmeen Jan has been sobbing quietly. With no milk for children, she has been trying hard to find excuses to divert their attention.

For the last several months, her husband, a tourist photographer, has not been able to earn anything. Income has dried up and so are the essential commodities. Enter lockdown, things have become more difficult with family on the verge of starvation.


“For the last nine months, we have spent everything we had saved. There is nothing left now. Since last month, I have been managing daily needs with extreme difficulties, but now I have nothing left in my house. My children are starving and no one is coming for help,” said Yasmeen, who resides in Zevan.

Yasmeen is not an isolated case. Life has become difficult for the daily wage earners in Kashmir. Two back-to-back lockdowns have broken their backs.  Since the onset of COVID lockdown, the source of income has dried up leaving people on the verge of starvation.

Sample this: Mohammad Shafi, 46-year-old Shikarawala from Nowpora, has been struggling to buy medicines for her ailing wife. “My wife is suffering from many serious ailments including diabetes. I don’t have money to buy medicines. I have already purchased medicines on credit. Now, the chemist has stopped giving medicines,” he said.

Since August, Shafi has not earned much to sustain. “The government has given ration but there are other requirements. For example cooking oil, spices, milk, tea leaves. I have nothing in my house,” Shafi said in a heavy voice.

Another daily wager, Shabir Ahmad, who works in SMC as Safaikaramchari  on a monthly remuneration of Rs 6500, is struggling to pay the loan he had borrowed for mother’s treatment.

In 2018, Shabir’s mother had been diagnosed with a stomach tumour. Doctors removed a part of the stomach after surgery. Since then she is on life-saving drugs that cost Shabir Rs15000 monthly.

Shabir used to sell merchandise on a pushcart after cleaning roads to manage the medical expenses of his mother. However, since the lockdown, he has lost that source too.

“There is nothing in my house to feed my two children and wife. I can tolerate hunger but I cannot see my mother dying for want of medicines. I have taken a loan of Rs 2.6 lakh from the bank for my mother’s treatment in 2018 and my half of the salary is deducted as EMI,” he said

Shabir approached many NGOs for medicines in the last two days but could manage only a few. “Cancer society told me they only provide therapy expenses only medicines. I then approached Help Poor Trust and Athrot, they provided me some of the medicines which can last for the next 15 days,” he said.

Srinagar District Magistrate, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary was not available for the comments.