Desperate times call for desperate measures. The breakout of a global pandemic, Covid-19, has pushed millions out of their comfortable lives or jobs of their choice. And the jobless in Karnataka are now taking up any available employment just to survive, even if it is manual labour. Also, some jobless professional such as theatre artistes are being forced to sell food on the roadside to survive the pandemic in Bengaluru.
Several dozen graduates, postgraduates, diploma holders and even some techies who have lost their jobs in Bengaluru have gone back to their native places to earn a livelihood under MGNREGA.
According to confirmed reports, over 50 such youths are working under the rural employment guarantee scheme earning Rs 275 per day in Bidar district alone. They are engaged in building canals, desilting check dams, tanks, wells and even repairing roads.
According to Sharath Kumar Abhiman, assistant director of MGNREGA in Bidar district, these are people from poor families who used to earn a decent living in cities like Bengaluru before the lockdown.
Speaking to a local newspaper, he said, “I had posted about MGNREGA on my Facebook page. Many educated youth who have lost their jobs recently contacted me after seeing that. I brought it to the notice of Bidar zilla panchayat CEO Gyanendra Kumar Gangwar. He immediately ordered us to issue them job guarantee cards and employ them under MGNREGA."
About 25 graduates were engaged in a canal desilting work at Kamathana grama panchayat and a few engineering graduates have also worked under MGNREGA in Humnabad taluk, local newspapers report.
“I was at home without a job during the lockdown. I came to know about MGNREGA and enrolled myself as a daily wager. I have earned some money in these desperate times,” an engineering graduate, Ramachandra, said.
The Bidar zilla panchayat CEO said that they had even made a short documentary on graduates working under MGNREGA. “It is a welcome development. They are not wasting time. They are earning something,” he said.
LK Atheeq, principal secretary, rural development and panchayati raj (RDPR), Karnataka government, has confirmed this. According to him, he has also received similar reports from the central Karnataka district of Haveri.
However there is no statewide data of such desperate job seekers and the RDPR department is now trying to collate them.
In Bengaluru, about half a dozen professional theatre artistes are being forced to operate a food cart to make ends meet in the time of Covid-19. They are selling simple vegetarian fare from morning to afternoon at Nandini Layout in the western part of the city. According to them, it is also an art form, even though the real reason is halting of all entertainment activities due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.