While sewing clothes for people, Kusum repeatedly glances at his phone, hoping for a call from PGI. Because, whenever a member of their security team is on leave, she assumes the role of security officer and earns Rs 650 per day. But she rarely gets that precious call more than four to five times a month.
This is how Kusum earns a living for herself and her children, Anish (18) and Arnab (15) after her husband Vishnu died of Covid-19 in September last year. No sooner had Kusum begun to piece her world together than her father, who supported her after Vishnu’s death, also succumbed to Covid six months later.
Kusum’s husband, Vishnu, who worked as a security supervisor at the Allen Institute, died on September 19, 2020, after being hospitalized for a month. Previously, the entire family tested positive in August 2020 and were quarantined. Kusum and the two boys were home on September 19 when a doctor called to say Vishnu had developed complications and was having trouble breathing. A few minutes later, they received another call saying he was gone. Kusum’s biggest regret is not being able to see Vishnu one last time.
For two months after the death, Kusum and her children received a free ration – sugar, tea leaves, atta and oil – but that soon stopped.
Recently, she received a call from the Government School, Sector 16, where Arnab is studying in class X, asking her to deposit a fee of around Rs 245 for three months. Although Arnab receives 5,000 rupees per month under the Parvarish scheme from the Chandigarh administration, his fees have still not been waived despite Kusum’s request. “I am told that my file has disappeared or that he does not have the required papers.”
His eldest son Anish, 18, who graduated from Indo-Swift and now wants to do computer engineering in Landran, has started teaching local children to raise money for his education. The family is unaware that he can get an annual financial support of Rs. 50,000 under the Parvarish scheme.
Kusum received compensation of Rs 50,000 from the Indian government, but this was used to buy books for the boys and other household expenses.
With his expenses rising and no source of income, Kusum says he applied for the position of security guard at PGI. “They said they don’t have a vacancy yet, but every time someone is off they call me for a day. So I have the opportunity to work there four to five times a month. I also sew clothes when I receive an order, which is rare.”
While the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) is not only supposed to provide funds but also provide bereavement counselling/counseling and therapeutic interventions based on the children’s needs to enable them to overcome the trauma, there has been no visit from officials to even check on the children who are on their own now.
Kusum is grateful that her husband’s employers gave her a death claim of Rs 5 lakh, which she deposited in term deposits on behalf of her sons.
“All these claims that the government will help and take care of the family are a sham. You are all alone. They should have at least given a Covid-stricken family a job.