Social Distancing Is Not an Option for India’s Poor
By Puja Changoiwala
As the world practices social distancing to keep the novel coronavirus at bay, 40-year-old Lata Jadhav still spends 13 hours a day in eight different homes in suburban Mumbai. Working as domestic help, she cooks, cleans, and picks up waste. She has heard of the COVID-19 pandemic from her employers, most of whom are now working from home. Already apprehensive, her fears escalated when another domestic worker in Mumbai tested positive for the virus after contracting it from her U.S.-returned employers. Jadhav quickly bought a mask, but social distancing—a choice between life and livelihood—is unthinkable to her.
“If I sit at home, I will lose pay for the days off. I have two daughters to marry, and loans to pay off,” says Jadhav. “I earn 14,000 rupees (U.S.$183) a month and 8,000 goes as monthly installment on my loans. My husband runs a food stall but is now out of work as the government has cleared all vendors from streets. Illness or its anticipation cannot be excuses to miss wages. Every day of work counts.”
Photo courtesy of Pepe Pont.
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