We’re having a hard time getting everyone to fit in. You see, all sellers are having a hard time now, says 28-year-old Ankit Gupta in Jammu, northern India. It stands on Canal Road in Jammu, which is usually full of people but is now almost deserted.
Jammu State is for the outside world It is best known for once being, along with Kashmir, a largely self-governing part of India and the site of a long-running conflict with neighboring Pakistan. In October 2019, Jammu and Kashmir was dissolved as a state and replaced with two separate states that are now directly controlled by the central government in the capital, New Delhi. Regarding the split and government takeover of the government, major riots broke out, especially in Kashmir, which opposed the central government’s control of the state. The government justified its decision to create two new federal states by wanting to benefit the economy in the region.
The decision has raised great doubts among the population about what the government wants and how Jammu and Kashmir will be governed in the future. When the epidemic broke out, the authorities stopped virtually all protests and imposed severe restrictions on the free movement of the population.
Like the rest of India, Jammu and Kashmir has been hit hard by the pandemic with thousands killed and injured. Many families lost their livelihoods. The restrictions have forced schools, factories and other workplaces to remain closed. One of those who missed out on his chance of getting an income is Maen Singh. He moved from Uttar Pradesh to Jammu 20 years ago to sell Kulche, a sourdough flatbread. He says he was afraid that he and his family would die of starvation when he had no income.
– I had to borrow money so that I could pay the rent and buy food. What was I supposed to do? My family must live. For more than a month we have been trapped at home and have no income, says bread seller Maan Singh.
With somewhat relaxed restrictions Now he has been able to start working again, but his income is low because few have the money to buy his bread. Maan Singh says he should try to collect some money so that he can get food and pay off his loans.
Maen Singh is not alone in facing tough times. Ashwani Bhagat lives on the outskirts of Jammu. He usually drives a school bus and has had no income for several months because all schools are closed and because his employer fired him for lack of work.
– Now I have no job and no income, says Ashwani Bhagat who had to pull out his savings to fix his motorbike that he should be able to apply for a job while waiting for schools to reopen and that he then hopes to get his old job back as a school bus driver.
Ashwani is disappointed with the government because he has not yet seen any financial compensation promised to the people.
– We cannot hope that the government will help us, now we can only trust in God. I feel sad when I think of everyone who has died and been affected, how can we trust the government, Ashwani Bhagat tells freelance journalist Syed Amjad Shah, before he gets on his motorcycle hoping to find a temporary job.
When the latest wave of COVID-19 hit Jammu and Kashmir, it turned out that there were major shortcomings in public healthcare. One of those who have seen him up close is Som Nath Dhapjutra. He is a social worker and now provides free help to patients.
He criticizes how local Healthcare and hospitals have not been able to cooperate with each other. He believes that the lack of cooperation has done more harm than good and believes that it is irresponsible for the Jammu health care department to let its own prestige take precedence over an effective health care system.
Dabgotra and his colleagues at Jammu Medical College are providing free help to families with COVID-19 who need help. They assist with ambulance transport to the hospital when needed and provide families with protective equipment so that they can care for sick family members at home. Something that becomes necessary when hospitals are filled with patients.
In the past week, the number of new cases infected and sick with the COVID-19 virus decreased in Jammu and India as a whole. Dabjotra believes that this is partly due to the ongoing restrictions and that more and more people are getting vaccinated.
But we won’t have any victory up front, he says. Som Nath Daphjutra says that once the government or people start to relax, there is a risk that the infection will come back and then it could become more dangerous than before.
The spread of infection is out of control in Jammu and Kashmir. The dark numbers are large and the authorities have now built a tent hospital to be able to care for at least 500 patients infected with the virus who are not yet housed in current hospitals. It will be a long time before the people of Jammu can return to something that can be called everyday.