Jagruti Devi lives with her husband and three children in the slums of Rangpuri Pahadi in South Delhi. Before the COVID-19 crisis, she sorted waste at home, assisting her husband who worked as a door-to-door waste picker. When the crisis spread in Delhi and the city went into lockdown, she had no means of working and supporting herself. Her husband risked brutal harassment every time he tried to step out to work and with no waste, Jagruti Devi too, found herself without any work.
By the time the lockdown restrictions had eased, their savings had been depleted. She then had to look for alternative sources of work. Now she goes twice in a day to work as a domestic worker, with one of the homes being that of her landlord to subsidise her rent. In the afternoon, she sorts waste at home, and in the evening, helps her husband set up his vending cart to sell vegetables. Despite all this, her income remains well below pre-crisis levels.
She does all this work while also trying to balance the increased burden of care and household responsibilities. When schools closed, she had to scramble to obtain a smartphone so that her children could continue their education. She says: “We all combined whatever money we had, even the children broke their piggy banks and we were able to buy one phone. All of us have to manage with the same phone now.”
When asked about the burden on her, she takes a pragmatic approach saying that she has to keep working and moving to be able to feed her family. She has no expectations from government authorities, but her gratitude is for the NGO she is associated with, which provided her with food and other basic needs multiple times during the pandemic and also helped her apply for the e-coupon and get government ration twice. Speaking about her situation, nearly after a year on from the lockdown, in February 2021, Jagruti says she is waiting for some normalcy to return – for her children to go back to school and for her work to resume so that she can stop working multiple jobs and be able to take some rest.