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On March 24, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared national confinement for three weeks. The emergency protocol closed public places and restricted transportation, and left the restriction policies up to state governments.
The announcement fueled an exodus of migrant workers in hopes of escaping the cities to their rural homes after losing their jobs due to job closings. This massive movement of people is instilling fear that the spread of the virus will become more difficult to control.
From walking more than 200 km to get home to being sprayed with chemicals, here's how the 21-day lockdown has been for a major section of our population. https://t.co/p9bfq8NAXp
– Youth Ki Awaaz (@YouthKiAwaaz) April 4, 2020
Opinion: This confinement against the poor reflects our collective class biases.
Although the Government has been quick to adopt global strategies in response to the pandemic, it seems to have forgotten the inequalities that exist in the country..
From walking more than 200 km to get home to being sprayed with chemicals; This has been the 21 days of confinement for much of our population.
Since March 24, the Indian economy has witnessed the arrival of millions of people to the cities, coming from rural areas. The construction sector was one of the areas with the most economic growth: it employed almost 50 million workers. Many signed contracts outside the labor law and earned very low daily or weekly wages. The recent breakdown in all economic activities due to confinement has left these workers unemployed and, in some cases, without access to food. Many crowded the train and bus stations to leave the city, but the suspension of public and private transport without prior warning left them without the possibility of returning home. In addition, it puts them at risk of infection.
When the entire city is in a lockdown, why not railways have a better crowd management, an information system, more personnel, some food & provisions for these over 1000 stranded workers. Here instead, a handful of police men were tasked to struggle without a strategy or masks pic.twitter.com/xETluYZTnd
– Arun Janardhanan (@arunjei) March 22, 2020
Hundreds of passengers, mostly workers from West Bengal and other northern states, are stranded at the Chennai Central train station. A small group of the railway police, who have no idea, don't even have a microphone to communicate the message. “Social distancing” seems like a joke in this situation.
When the entire city is in confinement, why don't the trains have better management of the masses, a better information system, more personnel, food and supplies for these more than a thousand stranded workers? Instead, here you see that a handful of policemen were assassinated without any strategy and without masks.
Delhi: Migrant workers in very large numbers at Delhi's Anand Vihar bus terminal, to board buses to their respective home towns and villages. They have walked to the bus terminal on foot from different parts of the city. pic.twitter.com/IeToP3hX7H
– ANI (@ANI) March 28, 2020
New Delhi: Migrant workers gather in large crowds at the Anand Vihar bus terminal in New Delhi to board and return to their respective home towns and villages. They arrived on foot at the terminal from different parts of the city.
Due to the cancellation of transportation, many migrant workers across the country began to walk to their home towns.
देश में लॉकडाउन है, बस, ट्रेन, प्लेन सब बंद है इस लिए पैदल ही कई किलो मीटर अपने घर की और निकल पड़े है ये लोग तस्वीर है नागपुर- चंद्रपुर की रोड की – भयानक है ये pic.twitter.com/KnmhJX9mw5
– rounak kukde (@rounakview) March 27, 2020
The country is in confinement, buses, trains and planes do not work, so many metro users have left their home on foot
In addition, there are reports of migrants who have died from starvation, fatigue or heart attacks.
Deaths due to lockdown in India. A thread:
– Kanika (@_kanikas_) March 29, 2020
Deaths due to confinement. Thread:
In the midst of the crisis, the Modi government announced a late aid package of $ 23 billion, but neglected to mention the affected migrant workers. Meanwhile, social media has been flooding with images of police mistreatment of people who do not abide by the order that the Modi government gave in response to television reports of mass migratory movements.
Punjab police style in India during Corona virus lockdown. Do you agree police should treat people this way? #PunjabPolice #CoronavirusLockdown #coronavirus @PunjabPoliceInd pic.twitter.com/uFs3MemicF
– Surinder singh (@ surinders86) March 24, 2020
Punjab police style during confinement by coronavirus. Do you agree that the police treat people like this? Punjab Police. Confinement by coronavirus.
New video shows police in India beating people with sticks, slapping them for n forcing calisthenics for allegedly violating the newly-enacted nationwide lockdown as the nations tries to beat back the coronavirus pandemic through social distancing.# COVID2019 pic.twitter.com/lcuWeLI9Yi
– Anak Kolong ™ (@AnakKolong___) March 25, 2020
ABUSE DURING CONFINEMENT
In this new video, the Indian Police are seen beating people with sticks, clubbing them, and using physical force against them, allegedly for violating recently declared national confinement, as nations try to combat the coronavirus pandemic through social distancing.
This is shameful,@budaunpolice . Instead of offering water, some solace to these migrant workers returning home amid the # Lockdown21 , your men are punishing them like this? What is their fault if their factory owners are kicking them out? @upcoprahul please intervene! pic.twitter.com/nyFZgQwtoD
– Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) March 26, 2020
This is embarrassing, Bundan District Police. Instead of offering water, a little comfort to these migrant workers who return home in the midst of the 21-day confinement, are your men punishing like this? What fault are they that factory owners are kicking them out? Rahul Srivast (well-known cricketer) please step in!
Another result of unplanned confinement was the disruption of food supplies to poor and marginalized populations. Although the Government guaranteed that essential services would be exempt from confinement, the poorest sectors of the population that depend on food rations were left abandoned, even in the capital.
FPS no. 7157/60 in Krishna Nagar (East Delhi) – No stock since 1 April.@CMODelhi – How is this still happening despite your repeated assurances about provision of ration entitlements to the people? pic.twitter.com/ITk8bGBPRE
– Right to Food, India (@rozi_roti) April 5, 2020
Public Distribution System Store No. 7157/60 in Krishna Nagar (East Delhi), out of supply from April 1. Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Head of Government of Delhi, how is this still happening despite his constant promises regarding the right and provision of rations for the people?
The human cost of the lockdown pic.twitter.com/Cgf4YuZb3w
– Road Scholarz (@roadscholarz) April 5, 2020
If you have to light candles today, light one for them too.
The human cost of confinement.
As of April 8, less than a week after the end of the confinement, authorities are planning a resumption of various transportation services. The greatest challenge undoubtedly continues to be the foci of infection that formed in the poorest and most densely populated areas in the suburbs of Bombay and in Nizamuddin, New Delhi. The World Health Organization advised that maintaining social distancing is one of the most effective strategies to avoid community transmission of this infectious disease. However, it is easier said than done in a country where almost 70% of the population resides in one or two-bedroom dwellings, or is homeless.