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  • Writer's pictureGarima Raghuvanshy

#13 Sanjay ji

(Names have been changed to maintain privacy, featured image is representational only)

Sanjay ji drives a taxi for a living. He lives with his wife, his young child, and his mother in Dharamsala, district Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. Dharamsala has a government hospital with good facilities. There are private hospitals as well, but they are expensive. The administration and education in Dharamsala are also good. It is a rural area, incomes aren’t very high and people live a simple life.

This is peak season for Dharamsala. It’s hard to say how many people usually come to Dharamsala at this time, but Sanjay ji can say that during peak season tourists find it difficult to find hotel accommodation or taxis. Dharamsala is not a very big place. It is a small, beautiful place. And in the peak season so many people come that it’s gets difficult to control. Traffic gets out of control. Now, during the lockdown, streets are lying absolutely empty.

Tourism totally band hai. Taxis and hotels are completely shut down, people can’t leave their houses. 99% tourists have left Dharamsala. In Sanjay ji’s reckoning, as far as the tourism industry is concerned, for the next year, year and a half, bilkul khatam hai. Saal, chhe mahine toh log dar ke maare ghar se niklenge nahi, out of fear that the virus might still be around. But Sanjay ji does not plan to seek employment outside the tourism industry. Abhi dekhiye, kya banta hai, filhaal toh lockdown chal raha hai, kuchh nahi bol sakte, but agar future mein lockdown khulta hai, toh koshish toh yahi rahegi ki jo apni field hai, us mein hi rahein. It is very difficult to change your field. Adjusting to a new field is not easy. If staying in tourism is not possible, let’s see how we survive.

Usually busy, the Dharamsala-Kangra highway lies empty during the lockdown PC: Sanjay ji

In normal circumstances Sanjay ji makes about 10,000 – 12,000 rupees a month in the winter, and up to 30,000 a month in the summer. At the moment his business is completely at a standstill. Kaam dhanda bilkul chaupat hai. For the last month Sanjay ji is sitting at home. There is no source of income. He says he earns a daily wage driving his taxi. Daily kuan khodo and daily paani piyo. If the situation continues in this way, on a generous budget, his savings will be exhausted in 2 months. If he and his family are very stringent, it can be stretched another 2 weeks. Beyond that he won’t be able to sustain on his savings.

But lockdown zaroori hai. It is good for us. True, there are difficulties, he is facing them too. But it is necessary for humanity. The government is doing this for us citizens, not for itself. This disease is affecting people all over India, all over the world.

So far there has been one case of Covid-19 in Dharamsala. It was a Tibetan man who had come from the US. Woh expire ho gaye ji. In the areas surrounding Dharamsal – Bhagsunath and McLeod Ganj – wahaan par Indian community kam aur Tibetan community zaada hai. Keeping that in mind the local administration has completely sealed these places. They are being considered red zones. Foreigners visit these places very often. If these places are opened, bhagwaan na kare ji but agar ek bhi case aa gaya, it will be impossible to trace it, and the virus will keep spreading. That is why these areas have been sealed.

As of today, there is no case within Dharamsala. There are two or three cases in Kangra district, but there is no cause for worry. People are taking care of themselves. They are following social distancing. They are allowed to go to the market between 8 am and 11 am to buy what they need. The police and local MLA regularly keep a check. Ration is available in the market, there is no problem about that. Sabji ki thodi si dikkat aa rahi hai, because it has to be picked up from the mandi and brought to the market, which is not always possible. When there is such a big lockdown underway, these small inconveniences are bound to happen, thoda adjust karna humari responsibility bhi banti hai. But if people in Dharamsala face difficulties, if groceries or vegetables are not available, they can call the police, they help us. That way Himachal is much better than other states. The safai karamcharis from the municipal corporation wear gloves and masks while cleaning. Sanjay ji has not gone to a doctor recently, so he does not know if doctors are wearing masks, gloves, and the complete PPE while dealing with patients.

Himachal is much better than other states in terms of pollution and in many other things. We are seeing it in the news, what was the state of the Yamuna, and what it is today, what was the state of the Ganga, and what it is today. The lockdown has also had a major impact in Himachal in terms of pollution. Environment ka baare mein zaada knowledge mujhe hai nahi, but ek baat mai aapko bata dun ji, normal agar hum sadkon par bhi chalte hein ji, 50 jagah you’ll find trash, someone has thrown a bottle of coke, someone has thrown a box of juice. Aaj ki date mein kuchh nahi hai. The streets are completely clean. Not even a toffee wrapper on the streets. In the evening when Sanjay ji used to look at the sunset, it used to be a bit hazy, dhund si hoti thi. Now it is absolutely clear.

What can he say about the government and how it is handling the situation? It is doing a good job, he can only say that each person, you, me, a child, a 90-year-old, apni responsibility samjhe. We will have to show patience. The lockdown is for us, so follow it. We all will benefit. And all those who are not following the lockdown should be treated equally. Not that some people are given privileges. Sabke liye baraabar kanoon. Jo nahi manta, danda maaro unko toh. Simple si baat hai.

The government has done something for every sector, but for the tourism industry they have not announced any package. Only the New Delhi government has announced that cab drivers and e-rickshaw drivers will receive 5000 rupees in their account. Sanjay ji has also seen this in the news only. Taxi drivers are also people, we have families to take care of. Many of us are wholly dependent on the income we get from driving our taxis. Jo government ke hotel hein, who toh chal padenge, unko salary bhi mil rahi hai, sab kuchh mil raha hai. But a normal person will have a tough time. So, I can only appeal to the government, itna kuchh kiya hai toh ek kadam aur sahi, they should do something for tourism.

The biggest impact of the lockdown is that his mother and his young child are not with him at home. On the 7thof March they went to Chamba for a family function. Thereafter the lockdown was enforced, and they are still stuck there. He talks with them on the phone, over video calls, but he hasn’t been able to really speak to his young child, ki woh hai kaisa? Everyone loves their child, chinta toh rehti hai. But kya kar sakte hein. Problem hai, but chalo, agar itni badi dikkat hai toh kuchh na kuchh uska solution bhi hoga ji. Itna time nikal gaya hai, thoda sa time aur nikal lenge. Sanjay ji is waiting. If the lockdown is relaxed for even a day, he can go and pick them up. Then at least they will be at home, atleast apne parivaar mein honge ji. Ab yahi problem hai, baaki kuchh khas toh hai nahi.


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