In Solidarity: Staying Compassionate In These Trying Times

Distress Migration forced by Lockdown without appropriate Preparation: 

(Photo: News18)

India executed the biggest lockdown in human history by imposing curfew and forcing 1.3 billion citizens to stay home from 24th March 2020. The initial three weeks lock down has now been extended to 3rd May 2020.

This sudden announcement unleashed chaos across the country as migrant workers, daily wagers, the poor and travelling public were left stranded. Without money and food, millions were forced to stay wherever they were. Terrible work sites and streets turned into make shift shelters, often without food, water and sanitation.

It is estimated that of the 20 lakhs (2 million – conservative estimate) migrant workers across India, about 6 lakhs chose to walk home. Some walked several hundred of kilometres through the blazing summer heat, carrying whatever they could and kids in tow. There are innumerable accounts of police resorting to thrashing those walking home, and subjecting them to public humiliation.

As a late reaction, and following a public outcry, some state governments built temporary shelters and forced those trying to get home to stay in make shift shelters. But conditions are terrible, according to most accounts. The extensive network of schools, public facilities, marriage halls, hostels, etc. were not effectively used by the government, which had powers to take them over ensure those forced to walk could stay in healthy and safe quarters.

Here we collate feature writings, photo features and heartbreaking videos of the crisis developing across India due to what has been widely criticised as #lockdownwithoutplan. We will constantly update this page, and archive earlier posts in this Archive.

Today’s Featured Article(s): Azim Premji: The interests of workers, businesses are deeply aligned, especially in these times of crisis: Wipro founder expressed shock over states diluting labour laws related to settling disputes.

Bengali Migrant Dies By Suicide in Kerala After Train Ticket Cancelled: 22-two-year-old Asif Iqbal Mondal hung himself from a mango tree in Kodanad, in Kerala’s Ernakulam district. He had run out of food and money several days before, and desperately wanted to return home. Not once but twice he had managed to book train tickets from Kerala to his hometown in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district – but both times, it had been cancelled.

Why did the Centre put migrant workers through five weeks of anguish before letting them go home? Neither testing nor hospital capacities in rural districts seems to have shown much improvement since lockdown was imposed.

Wake Up, Ward Committees: Once each ward is fully operational in handling local concerns, it will be prepared for emergencies. Raising awareness to guarantee that everyone engages at the ward level and takes responsibility is vital. China, Taiwan and Singapore bounced back to near-normal post-Covid-19 much faster because of efficient local governance. Many other alternative local governance accounts, especially those of the Zapatistas in Chiapas or the Rojava in Kurdistan, are inspiring at these times.

India on the brink of Hunger Crisis during COVID-19 Pandemic, warns ICJ Briefing Paper: The Global Hunger Index 2019 ranks India as suffering from a “level of hunger that is serious”. As a result of COVID-19, an estimated 400 million informal sector workers in India “are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis” according to the International Labour Organization.

COVID-19: Thousands pushed to starvation due to faulty biometric system in Bihar: Poor, elderly not able to match fingerprints on system, not getting food grain as a result.

Factory Workers Can Now Legally Be Asked to Work 12-Hour Shifts. How Will this Change Things? Four states are allowing a 72-hour work-week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that comes with serious implications for India’s factory workforce.

Frontline Workers braving major risks to their lives are leading the fight against a viral Pandemic:

(Photo: Rediff)

The risk of contracting COVID disease by Pourakarmikas (Safai Karmacharis), doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, police personnel and others on the front lines of tackling the pandemic is very high. They are dealing with unprecedented workloads and terribly stressful conditions, in overstretched health facilities.

In India there is a massive shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and thus these workers are exposed to extraordinary and avoidable risks of infections. In this section we will re-share stories on frontline workers helping us state safe, secure and alive.

Today’s Featured Article: ASHA Workers Are Indispensable. So Why Are They the Least of Our Concerns? The government of India has been making efforts to contain its spread and prevent the loss of lives. However, one must also concede to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the otherwise hidden and customary struggles of the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers in the country. Likewise, it has also been instrumental in bringing into focus the limited support they get from an inflexible, stratified and fragile public health system.

No Action Has Been Taken’: Frustration In National Covid-19 Task Force: Despite prior warnings from its scientists in late February, India’s government did not put in place a testing and surveillance strategy against the Covid-19 outbreak till end March, by which time its own medical experts expressed frustration at the inaction.

We owe care workers so much more than a badge and some applause: The job is hard, exhausting and crucial. Those who do it must be recognised with decent pay and employment rights

Attack on frontline workers:

Our Prime Minister asked Indians to clap, ring bells and bang utensils in order to cheer emergency workers during coronavirus lockdown; it seems people have not really grasped the message of respect and gratitude towards people rendering essential services in these times of uncertainty. Instances of violent attacks on ‘covid warriors’ are on the rise. As if the shortage of protective equipment was not a threat enough for these workers, they are now facing the wrath of violent mobs and brutal attacks as the stigma around the pandemic grows. Read accounts of such stress points developing here.

Featured Article(s): Vizag Doc Dragged on Road by Cops for Allegedly Creating Nuisance: An anesthesiologist at Narsipatnam Government Hospital, Sudhakar was suspended earlier this month because he alleged that the government was not providing enough PPE kits and N95 masks to the doctors.

Focus on Positive Community Action assisting those caught unawares by lockdown:

The Corona pandemic has taken a huge toll on human lives and of humanity’s confidence as well. There are multiple impacts.

Farmers are caught in a terrible state as they are not able to harvest and reach their produce – grain, milk and vegetables, to consumers. Pastoralists and fishers are not able to supply milk, meat and fish to markets. And vegetables and crops are allowed to rot on fields due to lack of farm workers to harvest. Millions of informal labourers and daily wagers, street vendors and artisans, are also finding their livelihoods being wiped out.

Food Corporation of India’s godowns are overflowing with grain. And yet the Government of India has not decided to reach this food to people going hungry. It is estimated that over 2/3rds of India’s population, about 90 crores (or 900 million), are in emergency need of food supplies. The massive food lines are a terrible indication of how bad the situation is.

Amidst this humanitarian crisis, thousands of individuals and voluntary organisations have stepped out keep the fight against the virus strong and people calm and healthy. Read such inspiring stories here.

Today’s Featured Article(s): Coronavirus lockdown | Truck ditches ill man on road, friend stays back till his death: Alongside the Mumbai-Agra highway, before the ambulance arrived, Yaqoob Mohammad cushioned his friend Amrit Ramcharan’s head on his lap and sprinkled water to keep him from sinking.

How Indigenous Quarantine Rituals Helped Arunachal Become COVID-Free: According to senior government officers, the tribal groups in Arunachal Pradesh implemented their own customary rituals, equivalent to a lockdown much before the first positive case emerged.The Galo tribe performed Ali-Ternam, a customary lockdown, to avoid the spread of the pandemic. The Adi tribe observed a ritual called Motor. The Nyishi tribe too observed a ritual called Arrue that involved the concept of self-quarantine.

“The idea of staying in quarantine and maintaining the quarantine rules religiously is ingrained in the society in our state. Thus, the society as a whole became part of this effort to keep the virus away. This has been a major factor in our fight against COVID 19,” Mr Kumar added.

Fight against COVID-19: Behind Kerala’s flattening curve, involvement of community: A grassroots network of local bodies and women’s self-help groups in Kerala has made the state’s fight against COVID-19 a community initiative-a game-changer that is helping it flatten the curve.With thousands of people put under home quarantine, their non-medical needs requiring looking after, and several hotspots sealed, the local bodies were called in for effective micro-level implementation of the containment strategy.

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