India: COVID-19 lockdown reveals financial, job fault lines in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s remittance-driven economy that has taken a severe beating since the coronavirus outbreak is now showing fault lines on both the jobs and financial fronts.

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One shocking visual from Chellanam panchayat near Thoppumpady in the state’s financial capital Kochi, showed villagers engaged in a tussle to grab food kits that were being distributed in a vehicle. The kits were arranged with the help of local MP, Hibi Eden.

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People were seen fighting on the street for the food kits, and a video on social media showed women in a scuffle to grab kits and one of them falling down.

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Local media reported that shops in the area had been closed for a few days owing to containment zone restrictions, and when they opened, there were only limited provision items available. And many local residents had no money to buy them.

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Commenting on the lockdown situation, one social worker in the area, told local media: “The locality is slipping into poverty. Many are losing jobs. There must be a solution to this.”

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Eden has written to the state chief minister requesting areas in Chellanam, where there are no cases of disease to be exempted from lockdown so that people can go out to work and support themselves.

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Losses pile up

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Reports of job losses have come in from different parts of the state. “The way things are going, people may turn to theft,” Usha Kumari, a housemaid in Kottayam district told Gulf News. Kumari is among the luckier ones who have kept their jobs.

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Tourism pioneer Jose Dominic said the state was facing the twin challenges of its remittance and tourism sectors being affected at the same time. “The coronavirus hit Keralites’ jobs abroad and now it has laid low the tourism sector at home, one of the mainstays of the state’s economy,” Dominic said.

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State finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac said last week that the situation was “unprecedented”, and that the finances were “precariously placed”. He said the budget estimates of revenues could fall as much as 50 per cent.

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The Morning and Evening Brief

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