Pandemic puts the squeeze on lower-income families in Telangana

Pandemic puts the squeeze on lower-income families in Telangana

Pandemic puts the squeeze on lower-income families in Telangana

These tales of woe of five families in Telangana struggling to tide over the crisis with little or no familial and institutional support is testament to how the pandemic has pushed certain sections of the society into a new, and worse, normal.  

Hyderabad: The life of P Ramchandar, lecturer at private junior college in Hanamkonda in Warangal district turned topsy-turvy on April 30, when his family of four, including two sons, tested positive. Post-recovery, when the family hoped to return to their normal lives, Ramchandar felt pain in his legs. Despite advice from doctors to get admitted, Ramchandar took general medication. 

The onus of managing his family, that also included his aged mother, on pared-down salary was one reason for Ramchandar not to get himself admitted. But when the pain became unbearable and his legs started to turn black, he got himself admitted at a corporate hospital in Hyderabad. By then the damage was done. His reports showed that he was free of the virus but his other comorbidities were acting up. 

With doctors saying that amputation was the only course of action to save his life, Ramchandar had to agree to go under the knife. Presently, he is a forlorn figure, confined to the bed at the corner of his rented home. Ramchandar is worried about the fate of his sons – one in second-year at college and the other studying intermediate – and his homemaker wife. The burden of repaying the Rs 6 lakh that he borrowed for surgery weighs heavy on him. 

The additional expense of Rs 4 lakh for his father’s surgery five months earlier, for which he pledged his land worth Rs 25 lakh as surety to a local lender, has compounded his woes. Faced with daunting prospect of repaying his lenders and maintaining his family has overwhelmed Ramchandar, who as a teacher taught his students not to give up in face of challenges but now has no answers to the problem he faces. 

Squeezed by demands of education 

The dilemma of ensuring quality education for his son and daughter, who are in 9th and 8th standard respectively, amidst job loss is bothering Laxman Nayak (45) from Mahabubabad district. A drill operator at a construction site, Laxman owed his graduation to his illiterate father and wants to give the same gift of education to his children. He did not think twice before admitting them to a top corporate school and even pledged 2.5 tolas of his wife’s jewellery to borrow Rs 70,000. 

Laxman, with his family (Picture sourced by Rameshbabu T)

Continuation of lockdown grinded construction activities to a halt and Laxman suddenly had no means to earn a livelihood. Pressure from the school, that demanded fees in full despite the circumstances, saw Laxman faced with a fee of Rs 1.2 lakhs for both his children. With the bank sending notices for the pledged gold, the family fears they may lose the jewellery as well, even as they struggle to pay the Rs 5,000 rent for their home. 

Disparities in relief offered by Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments, headed by K Chandrashekar Rao and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy respectively, has left Laxman fuming. “While in Andhra Pradesh, the government is offering Rs 15,000 each month to students to encourage their studies, the KCR government, that presented a surplus budget, is not rolling out any such incentives for students,” Laxman rued. 

Hailing from the ST community, Laxman says he has not utilised any benefits given to his community so far. “The government says it has started Gurukul schools for SC/STs. But the selection process is tough and only the academically bright students can hope to make the cut,” Laxman said, adding that the poor quality of education in government schools that further marginalised people like him. 

Accident adds to woes

Similarly, the lockdown has sent Naveen’s life into a tailspin. As if eking out a livelihood as a daily wage carpenter was not hard enough, an accident in December 2020 damaged his spinal cord and has left him in no position to do physically demanding jobs. His immobility saw Vandana, his wife, transition from a homemaker to a housemaid. But even that has been tough as households have been reluctant to hire maids during the second wave. 

Naveen, with his family, in front of the home that he had to pledge (Picture sourced by Rameshbabu T)

To pay school fees, Naveen availed a loan of Rs 30,000 from a local lender by pledging his ramshackle house. But that has grown into a mountain of debt that the family is unable to surmount. This loan with interest is now to Rs 42,000 and Naveen now fears the wrath of the lenders who want him to clear the loan at the earliest. 

An ailing wife at home

Jampaiah, a carpenter like Naveen, from the Jangaon district of Telangana, is faced with the prospect of caring for his ailing wife Lavanya, diagnosed with ‘Takayasus arteritis’, a rare disease of blood clotting in the brain. While Jampaiah’s life was sailing smoothly thanks to the furniture shop that he ran, his wife’s medical condition forced him to sell it at a throwaway price. He even had to pledge her jewellery to meet mounting medical expenses. 

Jampaiah, with his sons and bedridden wife (Picture sourced by Rameshbabu T)

Having spent Rs 25 lakh to date on her treatment, some relief came with Rs 4 lakh that the CM's office sanctioned through local MLC K Srihari. While the small shop that he now runs is a lifeline, Rs 18,000 a month needed for her survival amidst her deteriorating condition, and the need to ensure that his three sons get a decent education amidst all this has left Jampaiah staring down the barrel. He still has unpaid loans of more than Rs 12 lakh.

A single mother's dream 

Parvathi from the fisher community, who separated from her husband some years ago. has pinned her hopes on her son who has completed his SSLC. Giving him a better life is her way of proving that she can surmount the challenges of being a single mother. Having worked as an attender in a private office before lockdown, she turned to a domestic worker to sustain her family post-lockdown. 

Parvathi, with her son (Picture sourced by Rameshbabu T)

Having migrated to Hyderabad from Visakhapatnam 15 years ago, she is now faced with the daunting task of repaying the Rs 30,000 loan she availed for her son's education. While things were somehow running smoothly before lockdown, at least on the education front, Parvathi, who is yet to get a ration card, is now wavering between sending him to a government college or searching for a daily wage job for him so that they can make both ends meet.  

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