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March 24, 2020

Daily-wagers suffer due to coronavirus scare

Peshawar

March 24, 2020

PESHAWAR: As the call for Fajr prayer echoes in the air, 55-year old Sajjad Ali leaves Charsadda for the provincial capital where he waits for customers to hire him as daily-wager.

He commutes daily between Tangi area of Charsadda district and Peshawar. However, he complained that he didn’t get hired for work over the last several days. “I now wear a facemask after the police told us to do so. They also forbade us to sit in groups due to the risk of the coronavirus,” said Sajjad Ali. He said he can do any kind of work to eke out a living for his family.

He said that nowadays most people are staying indoors and do not visit the marketplace. “Fewer people visit the market and we do not find work. The government should help us,” he said. The business was not as usual at Fawwara Chowk in Saddar Bazaar: traffic remained thin on roads and fewer shoppers wandered in the marketplace, although this place is packed with visitors on normal days.

Fawwara Chowk is a household name in Peshawar. Besides other reasons, one is the availability of labourers on daily-wage basis. However, the labourers who have been sitting there since decades are nowadays mostly sitting idle due to the coronavirus risk. Sarzameen Khan, another labourer, daily leaves Mardan to commute to Fawwara Chowk in the hope of getting a customer to do painting work. Sarzameen, about 60 years old, says he has been visiting Fawwara Chowk for the last 12 years to earn his livelihood.

He has little understanding of coronavirus, adding, he has heard that it is a disease spreading rapidly. However, he says he is more concerned about finding work than coronavirus. “Previously, I used to get hired for painting houses and other places. But this corona thing has scared people and now a few customers visit this place to hire labourers for work,” said Sarzameen. There were dozens of labourers sitting all around the Fawwara Chowk, gossiping and praying for work. For many, the urge to earn livelihood is more important than to save oneself from a disease. “I know that we are safe at home, but if we are safe from the disease at home, we may die of hunger there,” Sarzameen argued.