Double Whammy for India’s Poor
Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Aryan Dev Uniyal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
There are millions like me who are comfortable in their respective abodes preoccupied with miscellaneous thoughts of the ways to spend our day to make it more fulfilling than the previous one. We relish the three meals, spend time with our family, watch the most trending Netflix series, play the available indoor games, exercise for oneself & social media, read, paint, cook, get updated with the death score due to Corona and much more, while ending up exclaiming that it was a boring day. As our boring day is on the verge of its completion, a poor migrant has covered several kilometers on his foot under the scorching sun, some even along their families towards distant borders. Those who have no morsel to eat or any shelter to stay do not fear any pandemic whose mortality rate is much lesser than the personal crisis looming upon them. Thousands of daily wage labourers and other migrants who are stuck within the gamut of The National Capital have been forced to exhaust their every hope of being take care by the Governments. It has not only made them defy the fundamentals of the lockdown but also contributed in aggravating the critical situation by congregating at such mass level.
Could the Lockdown have been better planned?
Which was earlier being acclaimed as an astute combative move by the Central Government to curb the menace is now under public scrutiny. The timing of the lockdown without foreseeing the hardships of the marginalized section of the society has casted aspersions on the epidemic policy of the Government. Why couldn’t the authorities keep a window for the management of the movement of such people to their native places? , is the trending grievance across the country. But, isn’t it too harsh to accuse an entity who is also facing such an unprecedented emergency for the first time as its people. What is being called a hasty decision, is the very reason for India not being in the shoes of Italy or the US. The aftermath of this rakshasa infection has made a mockery of the readiness of even those nations who used to flex their policy management & impeccable health care system. India, a country whose two third population lives on less than $2 a day and Delhi, its capital who has highest share of inter-state migrants have many demons to overcome amidst the Corona scare.
Lack of Consensus between the Union & States
The mass exodus of the poor migrants being witnessed at the borders of New Delhi has its basis in the lack of coordination among the various affected State Governments, Union Territory of Delhi & the Union. While Uttar Pradesh became the first State to aggressively execute the transportation of its people, states likes Bihar, Punjab, Uttarakhand & Jharkhand are either clueless or impassive in coming up with an evacuation plan. Seeing the sunny side, the Yogi Government should be praised for its thoughtfulness but the scenario which they failed to contemplate was the chaos that has been created as people in numbers have flocked in anticipation of their respective States following the same act. Not only was the first lot of the 1000 buses outnumbered by the hordes of people dreadfully waiting to board but it manifestly created ruckus among the people to occupy every inch left. The Government of Delhi which claims that they have all facilities for the food & shelter of such poor migrants, asking them not to leave the states have themselves arranged 570 buses for dropping such people at the borders of Uttar Pradesh. The slogan of social distancing, cleanliness & sanitizing has lost meaning at the Anand Vihar bus terminal, resulting in alarming the Union which earlier watched the evacuation as a mute spectator to come up with a notification directing every state to seal their borders and strictly stop the inter-state movements. The situation is like an instance of a cricket match where the bowler bowls a bowl which he does not want to bowl, the batsman play a shot which he didn’t want to play & the fielder jumps in the direction where he didn’t want to jump.
The Prospects of being Human Carriers of Virus
The primary reason for the lockdown was to break the chain of human transmission so that the people infected are traced before any irretrievable health façade. This is the exact reason why the Union is unwilling to let people cross borders to reach their dwelling places. The sample size of the testing for COVID-19 is still at a rudimentary stage as compared to the huge size of the population which clearly depicts that the poor will be the last to be tested. In the same tune, the people who are gathered cheek by jowl at the bus stations and the ones who are on the way by foot have not gone through any kind of screening or testing to be conclusive of being devoid of the disease. It would be a nightmare if these travelers carry with them the virus to the rural or slum areas of the country causing not only paranoia but apocalypse. Where countries that are scarcely populated are out of graves to bury the Corona coffins, India a home to 17.5 % of world’s population with a density of 464 persons per square kilometer will have to face more than a herculean task to restrict such spread of the pandemic.
Actions overpower Hopes
Amidst these troubled times, the world is not just divided just into rich and the poor. Even a bird’s eye view would showcase that people who have optimum resources are hoping for better days and people who are not able to make their ends meet want actions on ground zero. The Governments are reassuring that they have enough facilities for treating the poor with the basic needs, but on contrary the stakeholders in question are starving under the blanket of despair. The pain of the plight is such that the logical brains have stopped working which is making them take steps that may be termed inconsequential. Some have embarked the journey of walking hundreds of kilometres without a single bottle of water, few are paddling their rickshaws to eternity and the others rushing towards bus stations on vague messages with no concrete confirmation. It would not be inappropriate to say that the virus which travelled with the people who can afford a flight has struck the ones most who can barely afford daily ration. Instead of just hoping that the poor are provided with the basic means by the local authorities in consonance with the Government and only wishing that things get better for them, we as individuals should take the mantle on our shoulders to do our bit. The pessimist would ask; what can we do under a lockdown? One can contribute as per wishes to various funds created by the Governments (PM CARES Fund being the prominent one), distribute food items, masks, sanitizers through the medium of local Sub-Divisional Magistrate, checking upon needy neighbours, being a volunteer in various fields earmarked by the authorities, helping our personal staff, providing necessary diet to the stray animals or engineering any novel idea within the permits of the prevailing situation; the optimist answered with gleaming eyes. Let our heroics make us proud in the post Corona world……
“Stay Hungry. Stay Quarantined”