Imtiaz Khalifa is surprised and amused at the attention he is receiving of late. “I wondered why total strangers are calling me up and complimenting me. I cannot understand what is so great about what I have done. Anyone in my place would perhaps have done the same,” he tells Outlook. That’s the creed of self-effacing people who help; it comes so naturally to them. Imtiaz, a garment shop owner in Rajgangpur, a town in western Odisha, has waived the rent of his five tenants till the lockdown lasts. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who has appealed to landlords to be considerate to their tenants, was so impressed that he tweeted a story on it published in an English daily while complimenting him for his generosity.
Imtiaz, of course, didn’t have to wait for the CM’s appeal. “I decided to waive the rent as soon as the PM announced a 21-day lockdown. My whole family was fully behind my decision,” he tells Outlook. What now, since the Odisha government has extended the lockdown till April 30, or the possibility of it being extended further? “I have announced that I will not take rent till as long as the lockdown lasts, whether it is another month, three months or even six months. My tenants are all poor people who eke out a livelihood. How will they pay rent when they have lost their income?”
Mohammed Nasrullah, one of his tenants, sells balloons for a living while his two young sons supplement his income by painting houses. All three are without work. “Even my landlord’s shop is closed and he also has lost his income. But he has not allowed that to come in the way of his humanity. He really has a heart of gold,” a grateful Nasrullah says.
Granted, the loss in terms of money for Imtiaz is not a fortune: Rs 7,500 in all at the rate of Rs1,500 per family. But the goodwill he has earned by relinquishing his rightful income is priceless.