LUCKNOW: Even as the entire country worries over the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, people belonging to the lower-income groups in Uttar Pradesh remain blissfully unaware of the virus.
Rickshaw pullers, workers at roadside eateries, private security guards and salesmen in the private commercial establishment are not even aware of the virus, leave alone the precautions.
Ram Naresh Pandey, who works for a private security agency and is posted in a shopping mall, gave a blank look when asked about the virus.
Pandey is required to frisk people coming in to the mall and does not even wear mask. "Mask tau pollution ke liye hota hai (Mask is for pollution)," he said and added that he was not aware of any virus spreading across the globe.
Monu Kashyap, a rickshaw puller, has a runny nose, but does not think that this could be a symptom of the deadly virus.
"It is because of the changing weather," he said as he hands over change to his passenger.
Salim, 16, is running high fever and has a cold since the past four days, but continues to work at a roadside eatery on the Lucknow-Barabanki highway.
"'Kaam nahin karenge to paise katenge (if I do not work, my salary will be cut)", he said innocently.
When asked if he was aware of coronavirus, Salim said, "I work for 12 to 14 hours a day. Where is the time to watch TV or see a newspaper? I do not know about this disease that you are talking about."
In Arjunpur village in the Sultanpur district, Aslam Guddu, a farmer, is a mobile phone addict but does not know about the virus.
He admitted that he uses his mobile phone only to share jokes on WhatsApp and watch movies.
Talking about the initial symptoms of the virus, he asked, "What is new about this? Almost everyone in the village is down with cold and fever because 'mausam badal raha hai' (weather is changing)."
In Prayagraj, Rakesh Singh, a bus conductor, is also unaware of the symptoms of coronavirus and does not take prescribed precautions.
"In my job, how can I stop interacting with people? Every day we have passengers with cold and runny nose, but we cannot keep away from them. The government has not given us any directives till now," he said.
A senior medical official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted that the need of the hour is to create awareness about the virus in rural areas.
"There is a need to ask all village heads to hold meetings and make people aware about the virus. We will do this as soon as we get directives. People in the lower income groups who do not watch TV news or read newspapers should also be made aware," he said.