India: After the 21-day Lockdown — Prem Verma

Prem Verma

Convenor, Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas
Ranchi, Jharkhand

It is imperative that once the 21-day lockdown is lifted on 14th April, every effort should be made by the Central and State Governments to bring back stranded labourers, daily wage earners, poor village folk, etc. to their respective village locations in respective states. This is top priority before we start any action to alleviate the so-called suffering of the affluent class and the rich community like us. Do not succumb to the temptation of protecting the economy at the cost of the lives of these poor brethren who are as much an equal citizen like all of us. 

There is a talk in the air that once the Lockdown is lifted on April 14, there will be a ‘staggered’ plan meaning thereby a “staggered re-emergence of the population” after the Lockdown ends, indicating certain restrictive measures may remain in place even after April 14. There is also a rumour that we may face another longer Lockdown from April 18 to end May. In all these discussions at the top there is no place for ensuring that the poor roaming our streets for food, shelter and the comfort of their homes in the villages across the country are taken care of. It seems that they are dispensable for the comfort of saving the lives of those well to do citizens that matter. The above photograph of poor migrant population makes a mockery of social distancing slogan borrowed from the West.

Why we as a nation close our eyes and refuse to acknowledge the presence of the poor and downtrodden? For the well-to-do city folks village population does not exist and is considered a roadblock to higher GDP figures. Paying our respects to Gandhiji at Rajghat on October 2nd is a hollow activity when we cannot implement his advice about doing things and taking actions that will benefit the last man in our sub-continent. People dying of hunger, walking kilometers to their village home, is acceptable so that we sitting in the comfort of our homes are saved from Corona Virus. Where has sympathy, empathy and sensitivity towards our less fortunate brethren disappeared? Corona Virus has exposed our selfishness which was so long hidden.

Before the present Lockdown is lifted there is enough time for any responsible Government to think and plan out how the migrant poor workers will be taken home before another Lockdown takes place. Distribution of food/grains to the poor in villages along with working primary healthcare facilities in rural areas – these are must before another Lockdown is imposed on these neglected citizens of our country. The migrant labourer is disowned by his own State and reviled by the State in which he is lucky to find employment. Thus they become stateless figures who do not count in any decision making process except when voting time comes.

I was looking forward to our Prime Minister’s address at 9 AM on 3rd of April, hoping that he will share with the nation like other Western leaders the real situation regarding Corona Virus in India as well as tell us what the Government plans to do regarding helping the migrants to reach their homes in the meanwhile ensuring their food and security. I expected from him also a word of assurance for the doctors and nurses who are attacked in this difficult situation.

What I got from our supreme leader hollow assurance that we will win this battle and we should light candles and diyas to frighten Corona Virus away. Mere wishes will not wash Corona away specially when the Powers at the Centre do not share information, do not consult States on their problems of migration, equipment and hospital shortages, harassment of doctors and nurses and only tell the public that praying to God will solve the Corona problem. Are we fools and that silly to believe that closing our eyes to the reality will somehow make the Corona disappear?

Time has come to challenge the insensitive Government to carry out important tasks at a rapid pace in the following areas –

  1. Increase of Hospital and ICU beds for the large number of Corona patients expected

  2. Increase in Doctors and Nurses required to handle the Corona patients

  3. Reaching the migrant labourers stuck in various states to their village homes

  4. Food arrangements/rations for the poor rural communities across the nation who have lost their employment as a result of Lockdown

  5. Security for salaries during Lockdown period by employer/Government

  6. Information sharing by the Government on a regular periodic basis telling the public about the actions being taken and the results thereof

God helps those who help themselves and only lighting a diya/candle will not save us from this deadly Corona.

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