COVID 19 turned out to be a virus that took numerous lives, and the lockdown, instituted to prevent its spread, left the livelihoods of thousands across India in the lurch. The vulnerable communities, daily wagers, and the workers in the informal sector bore the maximum burnt of the lockdown when economic activities came to a standstill.
At Video Volunteers, we took upon ourselves the responsibility to bring forth the stories of despair, struggle, and resilience from these communities.. In some cases, we didn’t stop at just telling their stories, but also worked hand in hand to find a solution.
Take, for example, the plight of the Devadasis of Maharashtra. In better times, the Devdasis found their financial freedom by performing religious duties and dancing at functions organized at the temple. The Devdasis, have known the way of life ever since they were given away to local temples before attaining the age of puberty. The COVID19 pandemic, though, snatched their only source of income as the situation forced extended restrictions on public gatherings, including religious functions at temples. They found opportunities working as daily wage labourers in nearby construction sites but life was not the same. VV's Community Correspondent Rohini Pawar’s report on their plight led to a peek into their condition.
Among the list of COVID-related issues brought forth by VV correspondents, is also a video from the ‘pencil district of India’, Pulwama. The district otherwise known as a hotbed of terrorist activities gained prominence for housing several pencil manufacturing units and crafting the Made in Kashmir story. Rayees Ahmad reports on how the once thriving units now house rotting wood and products. He tells the story through Yunus Ahmed’s manufacturing plant at IGC Lassipora, which once employed around 150 labourers. First the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 and then the lockdown that accompanied the pandemic spread, forced workers to stay at home. A manager explains the entire process of how wood is made ready for pencil making by manufacturers and sadly concludes how “since the last nine months , bags are stranded (because of lack of orders) and the produce is about to be rotten”.
We have heard of Kumartuli potters in Kolkata. The potters give shape to the mighty Goddess Durga’s statue that is venerated by thousands in West Bengal and outside. But few hundred kilometers away in Gotpara area too, the craft is practiced with equal love and commitment. Potters here face uncertainty if their art will find buyers in the forthcoming festival season this year. Last year, the pandemic dampened sales, forcing some to migrate outside their village in search of work. “We don’t want any more lockdown,” said a potter, clearly frustrated by his economic condition. Dibyojyoti Karmakar’s video report on the state of affairs narrates their story of a hopeful gaze at the statues they sculpt.
The damage of COVID-19 is not limited to life and health, but people who have set out on their own in small ways are unsure what the future looks like.
This article is part of a series called Second Wave Diaries that documents how the COVID 19 Second Wave affected the lives of millions in the hinterland and highlights stories of despair, hope, and everything in between across India after their migration from tier cities and towns. Read the other articles in the series by clicking the links below.
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