Slum dwellers worry job loss, price rise will break their backs before COVID-19 gets them

Janu Doley, a migrant from Assam living in Bengaluru's slums, feels that it's better to be in Assam with her relatives during pandemic time than live in the city with job security | All photos by Prabhu Mallikarjunan

Roads leading to Bengaluru’s tech parks are empty. The offices that employed thousands look deserted, except for some security staff. There’s a deafening silence in malls and commercial establishments.

Everything is shut due to the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime minister Narendra Modi to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It has brought Bengaluru’s booming IT corridor to a standstill.

But a little away, inside the streets between the main road, the informal settlements in Kariyammana Agrahara present a contrasting scene. Life is bustling with activity here. Petty shops are crowded with people picking up daily essentials. Labourers, housekeeping workers, drivers, and maids who are either laid off or granted leave due to the lockdown, are chatting outside their makeshift tin houses with no electricity. Women are scrambling to get water in pots. Kids are playing with their wooden toys around heaps of garbage. And a few men are standing outside a small shop watching television placed inside a shop.

Anyone you speak with here has two concerns — will this shutdown result in job loss and when they can afford the next decent meal. Essentially, the threat of job security and the poverty is lurking in their minds and is strikingly obvious on their face.

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