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Kolkatans face uphill struggle to feed families during Covid times

Many people who lost a steady income because of Covid have yet to find a suitable alternative, The Telegraph meets three such persons

Debraj Mitra | Published 13.12.21, 09:17 AM
Representational image.

Representational image.


Age hurdle

An accountant at a company trading in industrial valves lost his job following the second wave of Covid.


He has been desperately looking for another job since but no one seems keen on hiring a 52-year-old.

“I am willing to do any job to sustain my family. But my age is a deterrent,” said the man. He has applied at several places but in vain.

Till a few months ago, at an office in Garia on the southern fringes of Kolkata, he would keep track of the valves bought from Ahmedabad and sold across eastern India. He would also handle daily banking operations, earning around Rs 16,500 every month.

As orders dried up during the pandemic, the Bansdroni resident was told his services were no longer required.

The man, a BCom graduate, has done a ‘diploma course’ in computer numerical control. He had worked in the Ghaziabad factory of a two-wheeler company and the Pailan factory of a company making cast and forged rolls.

His wife’s medical bills and daughter’s education has eaten into a bulk of his savings.

“I started earning very young and used to take pride in building my own world, brick by brick. That world is slowly coming apart,” the man said.

In search of light

A man who had been part of the housekeeping team of a retail store in south Kolkata since 2005 was benched in October 2020.

He was “assured” that he would be called back once the situation improved. But the call is yet to come.

The 35-year-old, a resident of Canning in South 24-Parganas district, is scraping through working as an amateur electrician.

The man “rose through the ranks” to become a cash counter attendant at the store. He worked for 26 days a month and got a salary of Rs 12,000. Before being benched, his work days were halved and so was his pay.

“I was told that I would be called back once things became normal. The store is now functioning normally but I never got a call, despite reaching out to the manager several times,” said the man who lives with his wife, a 12-year-old daughter, parents and a differently-able sister. He has no formal training in electrical equipment but learnt some basics from a local contact. “I can repair minor glitches in fans and old TV sets,” said the man. “I have shifted my daughter from a private to a government school. Being jobless at 35 is mentally devastating,” said the man. 

Sour note

  • Then: Lead guitarist of a musical troupe
  • Now: Delivering cigarettes to local shops 

A 36-year-old man in Dakghar, on the western fringes of Kolkata, is among many other musicians and singers who have had their income robbed by Covid.

Until a couple of years ago, he did not have time to spend with his family in December. He had multiple shows every week, open-air soirees in Kolkata and districts. Rehearsals took up the remaining time.

Now, he spends the mornings on a bicycle, ferrying cigarettes, chips and soft drinks to around two dozen small shops in the Maheshtala, Dakghar and Budge Budge areas. “The last time I did a show was just after Kali Puja, the only one so far this season,” he said.

“My income from the Puja season to March used to sustain my family for the entire year. The shows peaked from November end to the middle of January. For the past two years, I have hardly performed,” said the man. He used to earn Rs 25,000 per month during the peak season. “The money I had saved is drying up. I have been forced to stop an insurance policy because I could not pay the premium,” he said.

Last updated on 13.12.21, 09:17 AM

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