The world is grappling with COVID-19. As many as 50,000 people across the globe have died so far due to this virus whose cure is yet to be discovered. Fighting a virus is a tough task when it is contagious on the one hand, and the cure to it is yet be found out on the other. Under these circumstances, what we need to do is break the chain of transmission through social distancing and maintaining adequate hygiene.
To ensure that the citizens aptly perform social distancing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on 24th March. However, for the underprivileged, social distancing might not be the same as it is for the privileged. Urging people to perform hygiene protocol in a country like ours is actually an insult to people who don’t even have access to water and simple soap.
This nationwide lockdown, which has come almost abruptly, has taken a toll on the toiling class which has work day and night to feed themselves and their families. The first case of Coronavirus was reported in India on 30th January 2020. The government stepped in only in March. There was a good deal of time for the Indian government to chalk out the early strategies to fight the virus in India. The lockdown could have been used more appropriately.
With this lockdown, the worst-hit sector is the toiling class. Indian society is based on stark class divisions, which are sometimes defined by religion, language, food habit, but among them, the most important benchmark of class division is the economic background of a class. A class is always segregated from another based on economic background. The rest of the divisions are merely a pretext to implement the class division in terms of economics on a broader perspective.
The lockdown this time around has again highlighted the class bias we have as a nation towards the sect of people who are the economically weaker section of society. It is worth mentioning that a nation while implementing this class bias based on economics creates a hallucination—where people will struggle to find their own self and will fail to recognize themselves. They will try to recognize themselves on the basis of religious identity and other trivial modes of identities.
The lockdown highly underlines the government’s way of treating the working class in a situation like this. The 21-day nationwide lockdown was declared on 24th March 2020. As mentioned earlier, the government had got ample time to implement the lockdown on the ground way more appropriately to evade the chain of incidents where disturbing visuals of the working class showed their helplessness.
Migrant workers are okay with walking more than 300 km on foot just to get home. According to the reports, around 22 migrant workers have died while walking on foot to reach home. As this lockdown came all of a sudden giving people no opportunity to realize what is going to happen, people were left without work. Factories, construction sites, hotels where millions of people used to work suddenly shut down their doors due to this lockdown. As a result of which, people lost their jobs and were left without food.
Government, on the other hand, did very little to ensure that they don’t go without food. Transportation services suddenly got suspended and migrant workers had no option left but to walk miles after miles on foot. On March 30, 2020, as many as 93 migrant workers were arrested for pelting stones at the police personnel.
According to Business Standard, the situation became tense in Surat after a gang of around 500 migrant workers came out on to the street with a demand for their safe transportation to their respective native lands. Police tried to convince them. But the workers started pelting stones at them damaging several police vehicles prompting the police to fire 30 tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. After declaring a nationwide lockdown, the government was not clear on its policy for the migrant workers. As a result of which, they were left to the whims of the police.
In another shocking incident, migrant workers returning to their homes in Uttar Pradesh were disinfected with chemical at the Bareilly bus stand. The video, which has now surfaced on various social media platforms drawing criticism, showed around 50 migrant workers being disinfected with chemical in a very harsh way.
Mohd Afzal, one in the group, said, “About 50 of us were sitting and waiting for food and the bus at the satellite bus adda when some men in protective suits came and began spraying water on us. They said that they were from the sanitization team and were sanitizing us. The children began crying, and women were also shocked.” This is not the to ‘disinfect’ people. This shows how much biased we are towards those who are considered to be the economically weaker section of the society.