COVID-19 Pandemic: Most Affected Class of Society


By: Asad Mumtaz

The Coronavirus pandemic reached a dangerous path with confirmed deaths surpassing half a million around the world and the number of confirmed cases topping 10 million. Pandemic has badly impacted human lives, if the world would get free soon from the virus but the worst impacts on human lives will longer last.

In the time of coronavirus many countries set strategies; Social distance, SOPs and Lockdown etc, they have succeeded somehow to control the virus. In the meantime Virus has badly impacted the global economy.

For countries like Pakistan that are already in debt, the economic situation is worsening, people face dire poverty, they have no livelihood.

According to the World Bank report, the global economy is in a big crisis of 100 years. First and second world countries may have managed to face this hard time but countries like Pakistan will take much time to overcome.

In the time of corona and lockdown large multinational companies have  begun downsizing of employees. Even though these companies are not in crises but their profits have been declining.

In the situation of Corona and Lockdown daily-wage workers are suffering hard. Specially Women and the workers from transgender community are facing very hard times. Government had announced a relief package for those affected, but due to nepotism affected people did not even receive a single bag of ration.

It is estimated that 26,000 transgender people living in Karachi. They earn their livelihood by wedding functions, begging and sex work. (Although by law, 0.5% of transgender quotas are available in the government jobs, but this never ever implemented). Wedding functions could not be held due to lockdown, and other work was stopped. So transgender families face very hard times.

The federal government claims to distribute billions of rupees under the Ehsaas program, but that  so-called Ehsaas program has nothing to help in the case of Khawaja Siren. One of the reasons is that the Khwaja Siren identity card is not yet available in the majority.

The same complaint is to them from the government’s ration program that no one has received it. Yes, some people and welfare organizations have definitely helped them.

Ujala is a national network for creating rightful spaces & choices of life. Ujala is comprised of 50 civil society organizations working together for the rights of children, women, young people, and person with special abilities & transgender communities through grassroots mobilization and suggesting legislative reforms in the country. Network is being managed by Awaz Foundation Pakistan: Centre for Development Services.

Since the outbreak of CoronaVirus, the Ujala network decided to contribute to the difficult economic and health pandemic period by running different awareness raising campaigns to educate communities on COVID-19. In regard to Ehsas Emergency Cash Program, we did an observational survey in 44 districts of Pakistan out of which 10 districts of Sindh Province to understand the development and transparency in its process.

The social distance was not maintained completely in any of the districts. In Sindh Province 40.6 % observations are in agreement on maintaining social distance while distribution activities were carried off and 59.4% observations were in denial. Sadly, Sindh has come at least serious vis-à-vis complying with safety protocols while present at the distribution site.

Non -serious conduct of people with only 18.8% observations where people were following safety protocols to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 where 81.3% were not following the protocols.

Contrary to the people, the distribution staff were observed abiding by the safety protocols by using gloves, masks, sanitizers etc. Interestingly, Sindh came with 68.8% complying with safety protocols by distribution staff which is hard in minimizing the spread of virus.

Sindh was with a minimum 25.00 % where separate areas/ places were allocated for facilitation of persons with disabilities PWDs at distribution sites. Other than allocation of separate areas, it was also observed that there was no such arrangement of wheelchair, ramps etc. for the deserving PWDs who were there for collecting their cash.

Somehow; in Sindh least number with 6.25% observations separate places were allocated for trans genders but 93.75% were neglected the TGs with regards to providing them separate places  .

Though, it is not encouraging as only 34.38 % observations agreed and 65.63% denied the availability of separate places so they could not wait for long and not to get mixed in large gatherings as elderly people are supposed to get viruses easily due to their fragile health conditions. 

despite that there were no facilitation and separate places were allocated for people with disabilities (PWDs) but they were provided opportunity by staff members to receive their cash amount on priority. in Sindh with an average of 46.88% PWDs may possibly be dealt with priority but rest  of 53.13%  had to face hardship in getting their amounts.

Whether the Trans genders (TGs) given priority during distribution?

In Sindh very less number of Trans genders with 6.25% were engaged in Ehsas cash program even though they were available but not prioritized to given cash amounts so they were faced hardships during lockdown.

Whether the elderly give priority during distribution?

During cash distributions, elderly people were also somehow given the opportunity to receive Ehsas cash grant on an urgency basis. The highest percentages of observation in prioritizing elders were observed in Sindh with 71.88% which very encouraging effort is done by staff whereas 28.13% elders also waited for their turn. 

Whether the self-respect was safeguarded at the time of distribution?

The results show that people were treated with esteem and their self-respect was safeguarded with an average of 71.9 % while 28.1% were mistreated and did misconduct by staff, as most of the staff found it friendly and helpful.

In an observational survey, it was asked whether discipline was observed among people during distribution.

Sindh with an average of 56.3 % observations indicated a bit better discipline during distribution where the 43.8% crowd did not maintain discipline at the time of cash distribution.

Sindh remained at second number where friendly attitude of distribution staff was observed, 90.6% of observations were satisfied with staff’s attitude while 9.4% found unsatisfactory attitude. Staff was requesting people to follow safety protocols, to maintain social distance, to show patience while standing in queues and they were facilitating elders and PWDs at priority. They were also guiding people if they had any issue in biometric and in case of not receiving a message.

It is a delighted picture in terms of delivering and receiving cash grants transparently. 95.5% observations came where people were provided with complete amounts and proper evidence and records were maintained through biometric verifications with 100% transparency in the distribution process. Nobody was given an amount in place of a relative of any candidate or if biometric is not verifiable etc. in case of ration distribution by NGOs/ non-governmental welfare organizations, no such complaints were disclosed or observed where unfair distribution of ration was witnessed. In all 10 districts of Sindh where the observational survey was conducted, “Al-Khidmat Foundation” was observed the most in almost 70% of districts where they distributed relief packets in form of ration.

It was common observation by more than 90% of observers that people were feeling pleased and thanking the Government and available staff for giving financial aid when there is a health emergency and lock down in the country.

Some more observations were witnessed at distribution points like unavailability of safe drinking water, lack of proper sitting arrangement and huge crowds that created difficulty for people.

Cash amounts were given to people with their complete satisfaction. In case of any issue like missing finger prints of any elder person, staff were found sympathetic and supportive in explaining them the issue and way out for claiming their amounts.

The complete discipline was not observed anywhere and a huge crowd and a lesser amount of social distance was maintained. It was also observed that people wanted to go next to others in the queue forcefully.

26 Trans have died in Lahore and Karachi due to corona. Hospitals do not have such spaces for those, because in cities they cannot find lodging houses in one room.

The other affected class is the laborer who does not have enough rupees to survive in normal circumstances. The major economies of the country depend on the farmer and laborer’s economy. They were all locked in a lockdown and forced to live a very difficult family life on their daily basis.

The large number of laborers working in the factories has been deprived of salary for the last three months so the fact is that the factory is constantly closed will allow the competent workers to take jobs. According to the organizations working on the workers, currently 3 lakh 80 workers have been retired from their jobs in factories in Karachi. They are considered to be not just 3 lacs 80 workers but there are 3 lac 80 families.

On the other hand, the other oppressed class is women. One was that women who worked at home with their wombs were responding to work because of Corona, and most female workers were also barred from working during that period. Secondly, women who suffer from financial, psychological, psychological, and physical stress due to Corona and Lockdown’s being confined at home. Domestic violence has also greatly increased due to lockdown.

What is the state’s responsibility in most of these situations? First, under the constitution of Pakistan, the state is guaranteed the lives and lives of its citizens, so the state should play its role in this situation.

According to the law passed by the Sindh government, nobody can hire a laborer in the name of Corona. This law requires action. Separately, a separate program should be launched under the Ehsaas program specially for the transgender community.

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