India's Covid-19 Experience: Anecdote of A Humanitarian Crisis

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The restless movement of migrants has been stopped in correlation to the thought that it may spread COVID-19 in the rural hinterlands. The government gave them only four hours to return to their home, or stay hungry and homeless on the eve of the start of lockdown.

It is possible that the government had thought that it would help to stabilize the economic costs of running economic activities that generally run on migrant labor after lockdown gets over. The skill sets of these labourers are priced lower than their actual worth, they are left out of the social safety net, and are further forced to live in inhumane conditions due to high property and rental facilities in our modern cities. Thus, the cities often end up treating them as outcasts.

And to add to these difficult times, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant bureaucratic decisions have left them in a more vulnerable position than ever. As pointed out by media houses, the rationing system too is inadequate to touch upon their food requirements.

Governments are flying jets to rescue rich NRI people, but there is a dearth of cash and political will to evacuate these people. These people are proclaimed to be the "Makers of Modern India," but are subject to large-scale exploitation in the hands of government machinery and large capitalists.

The Indian government has failed to reach its desired target population due to the inefficiency of its welfare schemes, making the life of such underprivileged people a hell-like condition. Many of them remain untouched of different government initiatives as they belong to unorganised sector. The slumlords are generally throwing them out of their rented establishments as these people were left high and dry without cash in their pockets.

Small units and construction facilities are no longer functioning, and as we all know that these units generally provide very minimal job security as they work mostly on present working cash. The government decision has been made in haste since it did not consider the impact the lockdown would have on these poor people.

In the initial days of lockdown, we saw many people without their homes, money, and food risking their lives to return to their native places. Many died on their way while a few of them survived their great migratory journey.

Economists suggest that as these people are going homewards, there would be a possibility of labor shortage that will impact the post lockdown economic growth. The main logic behind the claim is the crisis of labor in urban areas, and agriculturally advanced states will end up paying higher labor costs due lower availability of cheap labor.

Though it is a well-known fact that the rural areas lack sufficient economic opportunities for its citizens, the return of these migrant workers will initiate a further crisis in the rural economy.

As we strengthen our fight towards coronavirus, we are staring towards a large scale economic depression. But the question here is- Can we let the majority of the poor countrymen to experience economic deprivation and hunger because of our bureaucratic whims? We could not save their livelihoods, but we are not even allowing them to live a normal, dignified life.

In this fight between saving lives and protecting livelihoods, we have mishandled their societal and political situation to create deeper scars in these people's lives. After seventy years of independence, not only have we failed to provide them economic and social justice, but in this corona crisis, we have also taken away their right to lead even an unjust life.

Written by: Bodhisatva Mukherjee

Edited by: Garima Singh
India's Covid-19 Experience: Anecdote of A Humanitarian Crisis India's Covid-19 Experience: Anecdote of A Humanitarian Crisis Reviewed by Garima Singh on April 27, 2020 Rating: 5

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