The Tragedy Playing Out On Our Streets

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

You might have seen it on TV or if you live in Delhi NCR region you might have saw it on streets, the mass exodus of laborers trying desperately to reach their native places, carrying their children and meager belongings on shoulders, walking miles on end, braving the Sun and the system which has turned a blind eye towards them. This human suffering flies in the face of our preparations for this lockdown.

Lakhs of labors are leaving Delhi and other major cities in India because of loss of jobs due to lockdown. Corona is the least of their concerns, with no cash to pay for rent and food, these unfortunate souls worry more about starvation rather than a virus manufactured in a Chinese lab. They have no faith in any promises made by our political parties, they believe in ground realities that our leaders are oblivious to in their Lutyens bungalows. Trust me, when our neighbors in my home town Gwalior told us that our residential area is hit with a water crunch at a wrong time due to a faulty water pipe and when they tried reaching out to local authorities, municipality and district magistrate for getting it fixed, a lockdown excuse was readily made available to them. I tried on twitter, on which many of our leaders are more than active, to reach out to our newly minted CM Shivraj Chauhan, home minister and even PM but a thirsty ward in Gwalior is not in any ones priority list.

I am not saying that lockdown should not be done, it is necessary but we need to have plans for all kinds of contingencies, we can mobilize buses, trains to get these people to shelters or at least to cities, villages where they want to go. Yes there is chance of community spread but without any sort of testing how would we know? I am afraid we would soon reach a point where we have to decided whom we give a chance to live and whom we leave to their fate. Exceptional situations demand exceptional actions, we need to get these people off the streets lest we will start seeing corpses on roads of those who will fall from starvation and exhaustion on these death marches.

We are in fourth day of lockdown in the time of writing and at least some state governments like UP govt, have started to take note of anguish of these daily wage laborers. But given the level of threat we are facing, we need a superhuman effort to get us through, from what I see on the ground, I don’t think we will be able to go out of our homes after even after April 14th, it (the lockdown) may go well beyond that.

This is indeed a tragedy that people are forced to become refugees in their own homeland. We need to do more, a lot more, to fight the pandemic and mass starvation.


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