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How The Hastened Lockdown Became A Death Walk In The Hope Of Life

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

In India, the first case of coronavirus was reported on January 30, 2020, in Kerala. Till then, we weren’t aware of the criticality of the situation, that it would turn out to be such a massive problem for humankind. Since then, we have had more than 11 million cases (as of March 1, 2021) all across the country. Many have recovered while many lost the battle of life while fighting this hidden enemy. And thousands are still combating with it.

But one thing that our government did on time was the decision of the lockdown. To save the life of the people, the announcement was one of the major and initial steps taken while dealing with this outbreak. This decision becomes more commendable because we didn’t have the vaccine till now.

It has been now more than six months that we are witnessing this coronavirus pandemic. Legions of lives have been affected by this unprecedented situation across the globe. The current situation is still out of control because till now, there is no exact vaccine developed by scientists. Different countries are tackling this issue differently. Some countries have already started recovering from this shock, for instance China (from where the virus began). On  the other hand, countries such as the USA are the worst affected in terms of the number of cases and deaths, followed by France.

In India, not much testing has been conducted nor have the cases increased exponentially.

All major countries of the world are constantly working in the field of research to develop the vaccine of this virus as soon as possible. But the mystery remains unsolved. Researchers are constantly and zealously working in this field in the different institutions.

In India, we are still not sure about the virus, because not much testing has been conducted nor have the cases increased exponentially. And comparatively, the number cases are less in numbers as compared to the other countries. The condition of India lies somewhere in between the two. The impact of this outbreak could have been very detrimental and dangerous, as we seen in many countries, because of the many reasons, be it population in the country or the medical facility of the nation.

But the lockdown has been a constant shield that helped while tackling this unfortunate situation. But while the lockdown is a boon for the society to handle this situation, the same lockdown has been a threat, too, for many backward sections of society. Many have lost their lives because of the lockdown, they have died not because of the coronavirus, but due to unfortunate consequences that emerged after the lockdown.

People lost their lives because of the lockdown-stricken poverty. In India, poverty is a latent flaw of society. Many people lost their lives while tackling their deplorable situation of poverty, which suddenly immerged in society and was apparently was always there. It is a filthy birth of capitalism that keeps on growing as capitalism grows. Poverty is a not a latent thing in society, it is there but remains in denial by the State itself.

It is true that when death come, no money can save you, no matter how rich or poor you are. However, a rich person dies in the hospital, trying every possible way to save their life. He dies because he is old and has lived his life to the fullest. On the other end, a poor person dies in the need of money, he dies in starvation, dies without proper sanitation, dies in the search of food and a lack of better life or at least required life. They die because of the disparity created in society.

Poverty is a virus that does not spread, but unfortunately grows. It grows by class difference. And the only vaccine that can kill this virus is provision of opportunities to each and every person out there, so that they can at least try to come out from such a situation. However, in such a utopian society, too, poverty can’t vanish or disappear. But at least it would be less in terms of certain parameters of human requirements.

A lockdown is indeed a great step while handling an unprecedented time. But it is not the same for all of us. Poverty is, in a way, a more dangerous battle than the pandemic itself. While many of us can have a lavish life in our apartments, buildings and bungalows, who can afford a lockdown easily on their savings and the salaries from their ‘work from home’, there’s a large group who earns a daily wage and not to save money, but to feed their half-filled stomachs, to feed their perpetual hunger, because they strive for the survival.

Class Distinction During The Lockdown

migrants india

Charles Darwin rightly pointed to the survival of the fittest.

This is so meaningful these days. While many of us are working from home, there are lakhs and lakhs of people who don’t have job security because they don’t work in multinational companies or well-established business. They are daily wage labourers who work on a daily basis. The pandemic, no doubt, has made our life tough in my ways for most of us, but it made a worse impact for millions as well. While working from home is easier for us, there are people who don’t have proper shelter. While we can buy essential commodities for ourselves, many can’t afford them. They don’t have savings like us to save their lives in these tough times. They don’t have a privilege life as we have.

The lockdown and the pandemic have not only brought a downfall in the economy, they have revealed class disparity amongst people who were there since the inception of society. The hardest hit of the pandemic was brought to the downtrodden sections of the society. The pandemic summed up the failed policies of the government. It is also true that the government is working and trying to figure out every way possible to solve the problems of the poor migrant workers.

But despite working day and night, they couldn’t afford a basic life to them. The government, despite making several efforts, failed to recognise the cost of the life of the poor. The lockdown turned out to be a double blow to the people who already were living their lives in pecuniary. No job means no wages, which means a hanging sword over their neck for survival; a premature death.

No person would end their life while they are happy. They die because of the circumstances they are in. They die because they are left alone in the dark to die, they die in search of a better life. They die because they are not the fittest in the race of survival. As the decision of the lockdown was taken by the government to curtail the spread of this novel coronavirus, lakhs of people stood stranded all over the country. As per the 2011 census, there are around 40 crore internal migrant workers, i.e. almost one third of the entire population of the country. The pandemic is a bolt from blue and so is the lockdown. But the baggage is way too heavy on the shoulders of the poor.

Undoubtedly, government agencies more or less tried everything to make them believe that they are with the migrant workers, be it the relief packages that were provided to them, free ration, keeping them in quarantine and free treatment for all. Apart from these, the government also provided monetary help. But even after taking so many steps, the state machinery lags way behind when it comes to implementation at the grassroots level for all.

Policies For Migrant Workers After Poor Implementation of The Lockdown

If the government were able to feed them all to ensure basis human requirements, then we wouldn’t have been witnessing thousands and thousands of migrant workers walking thousands of kilometres to reach their villages and hometowns. They are doing so because the government has failed them. They believe that if they are going to die, then they’d rather want to die with their families at least. Not because of hunger.

Representative image

But why do they want to die in the first place? Why are they opting for a death walk rather than sitting in the hope of survival? Why?
Because the state in which they are working for pays them nothing but false hopes only. However, when the issue of the migration caught the eye of the government, they came forward to help them and provide them safe travel to their respective hometowns. Special trains and bus services were started just to ensure their safe travel. But even then, many issues arose, such as who will pay their fair charge, the government or they themselves.

But the question remains the same that why they are not able to provide their safe journey. People were risking their life to reach their home towns. They either chose to walk hundreds of miles via highways or opted deadly railway tracks. In both the cases, their life was at stake. But in the storm of negativity, many people provided migrant workers food packages, water bottles and helped them at their own level, which gives tremendous hope to people and humanity. People who can walk hundreds of miles are either hungry, who believe in themselves, or poor.

Now or then, the vaccine will come out and this too shall pass and bring back life, not today, but tomorrow, after months. But one thing will remain the same, and that is how to tackle the situation of poverty. Will we ever be able to overcome this problem? Poverty can only be overcome by providing education, giving equal opportunity and equal way. Till then, just hold on to humanity and let humanity prevail. Let humankind survive. Pray for the humanity. Pray for each other. Pray with each other. Pray because you are alive. Hope is always a great thing to hold on to, because it gives a reason to live even in the darkest days.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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