Image: Amit Verma
The only earning member in a family of four, Delhi-based
dish antenna serviceman, Rishi Kumar, says the past couple of months have been tough for survival. Kumar works on contract with a small company that repairs Dish TV satellites, and before the pandemic, would work a typical day from 9 am to 7 pm. He would visit at least 10 homes a day.
While there was not much work in the first few phases of lockdown, Kumar says he was lucky his company still paid his basic salary of Rs 6,000.
“But my incentives come from the number of service calls I can take per day and some freelance work, and all of that money was not coming in,” Kumar says. In fact, Kumar, who lives in Mahavir Enclave near Dwarka in New Delhi, says that in the beginning, apartment managements didn’t allow people like him into the premises. “Now too, they receive me at the gate and see me off as well, to make sure I visited one house only,” he says.
After some lockdown restrictions have been lifted, Kumar is back on the field, even through an intense summer and days of heat wave, but the number of calls is still down by a third. To battle the heat, Kumar carries a bottle of water and his lunch along, and tries to find a shady spot to park his bike to eat between calls.
“I am facing many issues now,” he says. “The first, of course, is the fear of catching the infection myself. But even besides that, I find that people now act strangely with me. They want their DTH connections fixed, but are reluctant to let me into the house. Even if they do, some of them don’t treat me well.”
While people are okay with him working on issues at the terrace or rooftop, where the dish antenna is installed, if he needs to fix something technical in the set top box, they do not like him to enter their home. “This is even though I make sure to take off my shoes and leave my bag outside the house, and sanitise my hands before entering,” he says. People have asked him to use the remote from afar, so that he doesn’t enter the room where the DTH connection is; in some cases, he has even been asked to stay outside the house and guide them in fixing it themselves, without having to enter. “They treat me like a carrier of Covid-19,” he says.
This is part of a daily series on how Covid-19 has upended the lives of essential workers across the country. Read more here