Edited by Shivam Watsa
Novel COVID 19 has lashed India with severity, it will not be just the bourgeois who will be affected. India, the second-most populous country in the world has been impoverished millions and these impoverished millions are likely to overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the suffering which will ensue. The privileged Indian has been comfortable for too long with some of the most unconscionable inequality on the planet.
The measures adopted by the government to ebb the progress of the virus who were first to introduce a work from home leisure, to urge people to wash their hand frequently, physical distancing and then an unprecedented 21-day lockdown.
When ordering the lockdown, did the government not remember the millions of informal workers and destitute people who could have no work if they stayed home, many of them circular migrant, estimated at 100 million? These include casual daily wage workers, self-employed people such as rag pickers, rickshaw pullers and street vendors and people forced to survive by alms. Many among them are people whose earnings each day barely sufficient to enable them to get direct square meal.
Recorded messages on our phones urge to wash our hands regularly. We forget, however, that Millions live in shanties without water supply, and they buy a pot of water, sometimes for a fifth of their daily earnings. Regular cleanliness is far cry beyond their means. Knowing everything and pretending like an unknown is something they hide behind their face. We are also advised social distancing and self-isolation. How is this feasible for large extended families to crowd into a narrow single room in a slum and working-class tenements?
The irony is that a pandemic has been brought into India by people who can afford plane tickets, but while they will buy private health services, the virus will devastate the poor who they infect and who have little access to health care. The union government has announced a package, including additional 5kg grain a month for the next three months under the public distribution system; Rs 500 per month for the next three months for women holding Jandhan Yojana account; 3 months pension in advance to nearly 3 crore widows, senior citizens and the differently-abled; Rs 2000 more for MGNREGA workers. If you and I were told that we have to survive on just 2 days salary and 5kg grain a month, with no health insurance, how would the future be?
While one part of the population enjoys work and nutritional security and housing of globally accepted standards, others survive at the edge of unprotected and uncertain work, abysmal hosing without clean water and sanitation, and no assured public health care. It is a matter to give an insight and contemplate about the sine qua non of deprived section. Can we at least now make this country more kind, just and equal?