As the world grapples with the outbreak of novel coronavirus with no signs of slowdown, it is important to look through the crisis and find ways to tackle the situation. With world’s second largest population, India is trying hard to avert the crisis that looms large. However, with all the advocacy, India has largely failed to curb the crisis because of the lack of application to work out.
With millions of workers left stranded in large cities, the situation has created a humanitarian crisis. Due to the uncoordinated response from the government and lack of planning, the poor have suffered the most. Incident after incident show how things have gone wrong.
As soon as the lockdown was announced, reports of people being mercilessly beaten up started doing the rounds. Police unleashed the reign of terror by beating up people mostly from the working class. At least one person succumbed to injuries and died. Soon after, we witnessed thousands of migrants coming out on streets of cities, as the lockdown left them with no option but to leave for their respective homes.
With uncertainty, confusion and no security of income the situation of panic created chaos, putting lives of many at risk. This lead to the mass exodus of people—allegedly one of the biggest since the time of Independence. While on the other end, the government was bringing foreign students stuck in different countries in special flights, it left the poor to die on the roads.
With no means of transportation in place. a situation of callousness arose, jeopardizing lives. Bearing heat and cold with little or no money, no roof over their heads, they began their journey of hundreds of kilometers on foot. Many heartbreaking stories emerged. Pregnant women walking long distance to men carrying elderly and kids on their shoulders—all the way in utter desperation just to reach their respective homes.
Young and old wearing makeshift masks some even barefoot with little or no food embarked their journey of struggle. However, the situation turned hostile soon. Soon. this turned into a disaster. Before the virus could reach them, at least 22 people succumbed to death while they were still on their way. Some died of exhaustion, other in an accident with a truck. While the rich and privileged practiced social distancing in their homes with enough supplies.
This brings into discourse how fragmented our society is. The trouble for the homeless was not over yet. As with the media coverage report of stranded people came out the state governments took the initiative and special buses were provided. Yet again, even the buses could not accommodate all the people. One video went viral of how on reaching to one of the districts in UP people were sprayed with disinfectant.
The act was condemned everywhere; it was inhuman. Treatment of humans as if they were termites shocked the people. However, the administration took cognizance of it and promised to look into the matter. Things were yet to settle down when the news of the possibility of around 200 Muslims in a place of congregation of Muslim broke out.
So far the intervention was needed for the poor and homeless. Now with the vilification of this Muslim place of congregation, the whole issue of epidemic turned into a communal warzone—with witch-hunting and trolling calling it a deliberate move by the Muslims as a way of jihad. In times when crisis should be taken as an opportunity to look at the problems of society afresh, we failed somewhere along the line.
With the cases on the surge, doctors and medical staff struggled with shortage of proper personal protective equipment, and the need to prepare more isolation wards. Unfortunately, the whole discourse had been turned into a battleground with people of different religions mudslinging each other.
It is important to understand here that this is the time for larger unity and social solidarity. The divisive politics of hate is uncalled for. It will do no good to anyone as the issue is far more grave and broad. Pitting one community against another for the political and personal interest could be nothing but hazardous for one and all.
In times like these when the poor are already going through distress, helping them and reaching out to the ones in need should be the primary concern of the people. Staying back home and maintaining social distancing can help containing the community transmission and save so many lives.
At the same time, calling for peace and suggesting positive measures should be taken into consideration. The poor don’t have the luxury of managing the lockdown, hence there’s a dire need to strategize things through proper mechanism. There might be a need for physical distancing, but there’s dire need for social solidarity too.