Corona and the Neglected Mass: Talking about the voiceless

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I woke up in my double storied house in a fairly ultra-urban city. Took a long hot water bath and then decided to post on my Instagram how melancholic this quarantine period was. With no one to talk to and nowhere to go, I fear that I might just go into some depressive episode. As I switched to the Gram, a news piece flashed before me, an 11-year-old kid in Bihar had died of hunger[i]. Apparently, the child had been ailing for a week. His father is a daily wager who is currently jobless due to the current Covid-19 lockdown.  The municipal commissioner, however, denied “any chance of hunger death.” Two siblings died in Bihar’s Buxar[ii], the mother couldn’t get ration when the ration card was discontinued for it wasn’t linked to their Aadhaar. The father, meanwhile, was locked up for his alleged involvement in the violent protests a couple of months ago. If you ask me, it was definitely the careless father who couldn’t predict such a straightforward series of future events, and not the hunger, which killed the kids. Two cases have been reported in Muzaffarpur’s hospital linked to malnutrition.  Obviously, that has no connection to hunger. What a far-fetched idea!

Coming to something I have been hearing of since the past few hours, of people migrating on foot. Thousands of men, women and children are treading on foot to their native villages since the nationwide lockdown has been announced. Reasons are many, some don’t have the rent to pay for their houses, some have no food left to survive on, and some think they might die of poverty before Coronavirus reaches them. Some waited for three days, in case they get help from the administration, but chose the long walk[iii]. The government has announced relief measures for up to three months, which leads to an honest assumption that the lockdown may continue till the same time. But when these laborers did not receive the relief packages, they choose to tread hundreds of kilometers rather than spending three months at a place where they once migrated to earn, though they confess that the chances of them finding employment or even being accepted in their villages are slim. It must be the lack of education that prompts the poor class to make such imprudent choices.

Our PM, touted to be one of the fastest action-takers in this adversity in front of leaders of the most developed nations of the world, has announced a relief fund and urged people to donate. The government has also declared Rs.1.70 Lakh Crore relief package for the poor[iv] (hear that, the migrating simpletons?) Apart from that, we are being requested to wash our hands regularly, use sanitizers, and wear masks whenever necessary to prevent the transmission of the virus. However, when millions lack access to clean water and almost the same number can’t afford to carry sanitizers; it’s highly unlikely that they can follow the guidelines. Not to forget the slum population and the homeless, who do not have the option of social distancing or “quarantining”. But who am I to say, I am just a student, the most puerile and ludicrous class of people in the country. All we know is how to create commotion and cause hullabaloo, fittingly branded as the human version of vexing noise, right?

-Apoorva Shukla


[i] Bihar boy dies of ‘hunger’, 2 AES cases in Muzaffarpur (March 29, 2020 3:39:29 am) https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bihar-boy-dies-of-hunger-2-aes-cases-in-muzaffarpur-6336591/

[ii] Starvation Deaths of Three Children in UP, Bihar Highlight State Govt Apathy https://thewire.in/rights/starvation-deaths-three-children-up-bihar

[iii] ‘Better to die with families’ — no food or money, Delhi migrants prefer the long walk home (28 March, 2020 8:01 am IST) https://theprint.in/india/better-to-die-with-families-no-food-or-money-delhi-migrants-prefer-the-long-walk-home/390037/

[iv] Rs 1.70 lakh crore relief package announced for the poor to help them fight against Corona Virus (March 26, 2020)  https://www.narendramodi.in/finance-minister-announces-rs-1-70-lakh-crore-relief-package-under-pradhan-mantri-garib-kalyan-yojana-for-the-poor-to-help-them-fight-the-battle-against-corona-virus-548981

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