For long the world has been gripped in truce of mankind with mankind. But this time there is an invisible enemy – a virus. The two biggest economies of the world, who are the main wheels of global growth and development are in big trouble, which is not a good sign.
In India polarised reactions on every decision taken has become legion. Panic-stricken citizens, confined to their home bunkers, are closely monitoring grim news flowing in from home and abroad. The war against COVID – 19 has opened a battle front, and some face the deadly repercussions of the battlefield: people who are being killed out of hunger and poverty than with deadly virus.
- There are millions of daily wage earners and migrant labourers who are facing a sea of difficulties, left with little economic buffer or welfare safety net. Work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme—which guarantees 100 days of work to daily wage earners in rural areas—has come to a standstill due to the lockdown in India. The lockdown has come in a ripe time, but the question here is of safety nets, these workers should have been provided with unemployment allowances. They have no prospect of income and have run out of basic necessities in these three weeks.
- At least 90% of India’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, according to the International Labour Organization. Most do not have access to pensions, sick leave, paid leave or any kind of insurance. Many do not have bank accounts, relying on cash to meet their daily needs. They are also the ‘floating population’ of India, people who do not live in any state for a long period as they move around to find work. They pose the threat of community transmission, which is a challenge, but what’s pertinent is also the question of what’s there for them and their family to sustain in their host states which is generally a posh metropolitan hub of India, with zero source of income and huge cost of living.
- What’s more startling is the lack of awareness among this section (The Hindu dealt with this aspect extensively where interaction with these workers showed that they are unaware of this mayhem: a cobbler going to his hometown did not know why the station was empty).
- Also, the situation has been entangled in social prejudice – In UP returning workers were hosed down with disinfectants as if they were pathogens. People from North East India are facing racist comments. All we need to understand is pathogens don’t look for particular race or place – all they need is a human body. We need to fight this enemy United and not get into social ostracism.
- The farmers are debt ridden, they are not able to sell their produce, the cycle of debt gets more vicious for them.
- The doctor’s situations, who are our frontline soldiers are no better. The statistics are startling, there is just one government doctor for every 28,000 people.
The times are difficult, we need to stand united and fight the invisible enemy!
Christ University, Bengaluru, Karnataka