(Names have been changed to maintain privacy)
Sagar, Amit, and Anil are brothers. Their parents moved to Mumbai 15-20 years ago and have been settled here ever since. All three of the brothers are married and have two kids each. They all live in Madh. Their family is from Hissar in Haryana, and they visit their native town once in two or three years. There are several people from Hissar who have come to Mumbai and live in Madh. Most have settled here, but in general aana jaana toh rehta hi hai between Mumbai and Hissar. Around the 12th or 13th of March 25 – 30 people left for Hissar. This was well before the lockdown. These people were able to get seats in the train and didn’t have any trouble reaching home. Sagar, Amit, and Anil studied in a BMC school till 7th or 8th standard. After that they dropped out. Dimaag hi nahi chala.
Sagar, Amit, and Anil work as garbage collectors in an apartment complex in Andheri West, Mumbai. They are also responsible for cleaning the complex. They are paid directly by the manager of the society and are not employees of any company. Everyone in their family does the same type of work. The brothers don’t know much about Coronavirus. They know the lockdown is because of Coronavirus, but, that’s the thing, they don’t know what it is. They see some news on and off. No one from the BMC has come in their area to inform people about Coronavirus. Sab public ko dekh kar they also started tying a rumaal on their face, but they don’t know why they’re doing it.
Between the three of them Sagar, Anil, and Amit have split garbage collection responsibilities. Each of them collects trash from one building within the premises. Each building has 24 apartments. This is the only apartment complex they work in, and together they are paid 8000 rupees per month. Once collected, they leave the trash outside the building compound, and it is collected by the BMC. Under normal circumstances there are two separate bins outside the building for dry and wet garbage respectively. Different BMC vans come to pick up the two types of garbage. Several residents in the complex segregate their garbage, but some don’t, so the brothers wear gloves and segregate the trash once they have collected all of it from each building. In this lockdown the garbage is not being segregated and only one van comes to collect the it. How can the brothers segregate the trash now? With Corona doing the rounds everyone has told them not to.
A landing in one of the buildings, garbage has been placed outside doors to be cleared
They are poor. During the lockdown they are being given a travel allowance, but getting to work and back has become a problem. Under normal circumstances they’d take the ferry and easily reach the complex by 5 – 5:30 AM. During the lockdown Sagar, Amit, and Anil wake up by 3 am and reach the building by 4. The police harass them. The apartment complex has given them a letter saying they work here as trash-collectors, the letter gets them through. But they experience a lot of problems in moving around. The police ask them where they are coming from and where they are going. Life has become difficult during the lockdown.
After the brothers are done cleaning the complex and collecting the garbage, they head home and stay indoors. People in Madh are taking the lockdown seriously. Ghumne waale ghumte hein, but there are also many people who are staying indoors. But how long will people sit at home? Waise toh lockdown achhi baat hai. sarkar kar rahi hai ache ke liye kar rahi hai. Bura toh nahi kar rahi hai. Kya kar sakte hein, jaise sarkar bolegi waise karna padega. Sarkar ko kya dikkat hai, gareeb aadmi log ko dikkat hai, aane jaane mein, khaane peene mein. Jab tak band karke rakhenge, rehna padega. They have a 0 balance jan dhan bank account. But they haven’t received any financial aid from the government yet. Even when they opened the account the government said it will put money, but never did. It’s been 5 years since. They all have ration cards. They know about the government’s promises to give more free ration than usual due to the current circumstances. When they go to the ration shop on the 1st of the month they’ll come to know what is actually being given. They don’t have a BPL card.
Sagar, Amit, and Anil don’t see what is positive about this lockdown. Vegetables have become so expensive, what will they eat? Onions, which were until recently being sold at 20 or 25 rupees a kilo, they were even 10 rupees a kilo at some point, are now being sold at 30 or 40 or 50 rupees. Unko aisa kuchh nahi lagta ki people are getting to spend more time with their families and so on. Sagar recently took his daughter to the doctor. The doctor was wearing a mask and gloves. It was crowded in the clinic, and every patient who went in took at least 20 mins. Everyone was sitting close together in the waiting room. There aren’t too many clinics in Madh, maybe 3 or 4. There is no government clinic. The closest one is in Malad. In the market in Madh people are standing inside circles drawn with chalk to maintain distance. The brothers did not get petrol this morning, and they say that from today petrol pumps will be closed. The brothers will come to work as long as it is possible for them. After that, they’ll also have to stop. Then the government will figure out what to do.
The brothers pose for a photo