Tag Archives: #covid-19

Corona Diaries-4

With the shutdown we learnt new terminology and actual forms of social or physical distancing. In India, where already distancing and untouchability existed based on the caste system, many of us objected to the term ‘social distancing’, which in the rest of the world meant keep a distance and do NOT be social, or hug and maintain 6 feet distance.

Now, in this cramped and densely populated city, one cannot even find a foot of a distance. Intruding on one’s body space is commonly witnessed. As soon as the lockdown was announced, the BMC drew geometrical designs on the pavements to ensure citizens followed the protocal and stood away from each other.

They built our cities

It is tragic to see the way many politicians have maximised the demand by daily wagers to return to their homes.

Most of our cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and all the rest, were not built by the locals or the educated middle class or the rich. Our houses, work places, roads, entire infrastructure is built by the workers from the rural areas of the home state and other states that have been facing extreme poverty– Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Many of these workers too moved up after working for number of years while many simply could not for number of reasons.

Like all poor, these too first came and stayed in slums or at construction work sites. Many stay in one room tennament shared by a dozen, sleeping in turns. None of these residential premises are even worth being called so. Cramped, tin roofs, barely a foot for each person, cheek to jowl premises, have no toilets, drinking water or basic amenities. They are a huge vote bank and every government only extends the cut off date fir legalising these illegal existential premises.

With the outbreak of Covid-19, the main concern and rightfully was slum dwellers and daily wagers are in no win situation. They may die of suffocation and starvation or Corona. There was no way ahead. From January 30th when the first case of Covid was recorded but not revealed, the BJP led central government had enough time of nearly two months to tackle thr situation. But it was not to be. The daily workers were given NO time. A sudden lockdown was announced at 8.00pm. (Let us not get into this man’s –PM’s, obsession for late night diktats). The poor workers were given no time. They were not even aware of the dreadful future that awaited them. Mainly, NO food and NO work.

Visuals of women, children, workers walking from one city to their homes, which are hundreds if not a few thousand kilometres away. Barely any footwear, carrying their belongings they are either walking, cramped in trucks, cars or some on cycles, gripped by fear of dying from hunger, their mission is yo reach their homes.

Hunger, is like a curse and nobody should suffer from it. This is a well said statement, rozi roti…be it any government, has failed its people. This utopian ideal is just NOT tackled in the capitalist governments that failed its citizens. And the BJP party, with its definite divisive ideology based on religion, this was evident, thd majority migrant workers, mainly Muslims, were NOT their priority. The initial cold snub by elite in our society, including news organisations, they questioned, why were the workers risking their lives going back home.

Nearly 500 or even more have died– exhaustion, run over by trucks/card, slept on the railway tracks and run over by trains, hunger. It is endless as we witnessed such pictures of people travelling distances. Their resolution to go back to their poor huts or homes is but natural. Being one with your family, is the basic source of strength andi ing that one has. Something, that a man who has abandoned his child bride, mother, will nit understand. Obviously hinting at the PM.

Within our city, if we travel for dinner to a friend’s house, however late, we want to head back home. Here, the workers want to be their loved ones. There may be no food back home, but they have the strength of their families to help them live through these times. Back in our cities, they were living off alms, charities, something their self respect would not permit. Because they knew, one day all this would run dry. Then what would they do? Go hungry? Who would fend gor them? They are clued to the ground realities more than us and they knew the harsh truth

Sadly, some states and police have been harassing the workers to go back. A lot of intervention apart now most have left and it is a shame, we let down our own. These workers helped to build our homes and cities and are now forced to go back, whole we sleep well

More than clapping for police and medics, honestly we should have done to protect the workers

Life in times of CORONA

After the first case of Corona in India, which was reported towards the end of January, we have seen it grow across our country. Despite knowing it’s a pandemic, our central government took its te to respond. Worse, before the lockdown measures were not taken. Specifically, as regards maintaining supply of chain for essentials, mainly medicines, masks, PPE equipment, groceries and other bare essentials.

Worse, it has NEVER been communicated directly and simply to citizens what steps need to be taken, how physical contact, close proximity, droplets of the affected can spread to people ans they need to stay at home.

Worse still, when we look back, many mega events of all religions and communities have been allowed
This makes one wonder were permissions deliberately given? So first the Corona Virus was given a communal tone. As if Tablighi jamaat event was the cause of the virus. Repercussions of which are seen even today. Those very doctors who this biased government wants to protect are denying treatment to patients, be it Covid or non-Covid only because they are Muslims. Nobody has condemned the various Hindu religious yatras and pilgrimages. We will say just stop all of it.

The government refused to reign in those who took liberties to attack Muslims verbally or physically. The many NRIs who have moved abroad for better prospects however sought opportunity to jump on this bogey of criticising a particular religious community. Staying in the Middle East, they began writing, tweeting and uploading anti-Islamic and Muslim material. Before you knew, the Saudi royal family took to criticising the BJP government for failing to protect Muslims in India. This had an impact, suddenly our leader displayed streaks of enlightenment. Severely under pressure (Reminds me of Freddy Mercury’s Under Pressure song), a clarification was issued by the of India stating how Corona Virus sees no religion, caste. But the damage was already done.

Around this time, another problem was unfolding in India. The migrant workers who were rendered jobless and we’re at the mercy of local NGOs, people and state governments. They realised they wanted to go home. The whole dear of going hungry, starving has rendered them helpless. Suddenly all woke took to slamming them and again a majority daily wagers are minorities from different states. The central government had failed to address their problem and failed to notify states about it and ignored the rising financial need to feed these workers. Was it deliberate? None of this was rocket science or a state secret. If all work has been stopped it is but natural, the daily wagers would be jobless, penniless and would starve.

Such colossal indifference and negligence was not expected 8n these times. It led to the poor walking miles with whatever little bearings they had, barefoot and for days to reach their homes. It is but natural. If someone like me, within my city refuses to stay back at any friend’s house and be however late, travel back home to hit on my bed, why is it so difficult to understand these workers want to be with their families. They will get something respectful to eat. Their diet is not dal, rice, or whatever is being given. Camps where space cramped, must be congested and hot too.

Reminds me of the last 5 minutes of ‘Parasite’ film. After heavy floods, rich and poor, all end up at a camp in a gym, huddled together. The young man asks his father if he has a back up plan. He replies saying, life has no plans. He tells the lad, who would have thought the rich, landlords and them poor would be in the same situation facing it at one time, together

That is exactly the situation we are in. Now after the initial communalisation, when the funds from Middle East were threatened to be stopped, some.symbolic words were stated. Fact is life in times of Corona is a challenge. Quite a bit of an equaliser.