Ever since Pakistan went into a complete lockdown, positively everyone showed their concern for the daily wagers and labourers; the people who are below the poverty line. I am saying positively because it’s been a while since the government and the opposition mutually agreed on something. We also saw many celebrities, private organizations, NGO’s and individuals collecting donations for ration bags and financial aid to be distributed among the poor working class. It was a great humanitarian effort indeed and deserves much appreciation.
“Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program is a needed one which is great relief package worth 180 Million which promised Rs 12,000 to the deserving individuals and households who have been affected by the lockdown. Prime Minister Imran Khan himself appealed to people to donate in this program and needless to say, “EHSAAS” program has been doing what it promised to do, but for how long? It is learnt, the program cannot feed people for the next 3 to 4 months. The only way forward we could all see was slight ease in the lockdown with strict precautions. If the poor would not die of the novel Coronavirus, they would die of hunger.
Nevertheless, the much-anticipated decision on lockdown came on the 15th April 2020 and the Federal Government decided to put some ease in the lockdown by letting some industries and sectors get operational. Although the provinces still had the authority and power to amend the lockdown decision keeping the provincial situation in view. The decision was made keeping in mind what I have exactly written above that poverty will kill people before the Coronavirus pandemic does. Small shop owners, electricians, plumbers, construction industry, food industry and many more are now back in the business. This will give relief to those previously affected by the complete lockdown.
The only way forward we could all see was slight ease in the lockdown with strict precautions. If the poor would not die of the novel Coronavirus, they would die of hunger.
However, there is another chunk of our population that is silently suffering from the lockdown and nobody is talking about it. The “White Collar Job” holders. Big private companies are laying off their employees without any prior notice and guarantee of hiring them back anytime soon. Many have up to 50% salary cut with the same working hours for the employees. We are going into the worst recession in the history of Pakistan and as William Phillips proved that with higher unemployment the wage rate will go down. Even after the ease in the lockdown, these firms are not paying the employees in full because the business cycle will take some time to get fully operational and back to normal.
The entire ‘work from home’ situation has benefited the firms since their logistic and operational expenses have come down and what future looks like after the lockdown is that many companies will consider work from home as an ultimatum for cost-saving. In all this “cutting down the expenses” phase employees are at the losing side. The same working hours with less pay are what these employees are trapped in and this will go on for the next 5 to 6 months as anticipated. As much as it will benefit the private sector in making big revenues the white-collar job holders would have to sit at home despite the fancy degrees they hold. This neglected chunk of the population is at its worst and the Government has not been able to keep a check on the relief policies they offered earlier. It was announced that amidst the lockdown rentals would be paid in half and there would be a relief in the utility bills as well but nothing has been strictly followed as of yet. The middle-class chunk cannot benefit from the “EHSAAS” program and is the start silent sufferer in this Pandemic movie and the authorities are quite as well.