The three-week Covid-19 lockdown of India’s 1.37 billion people has stranded millions of domestic migrant workers and left people scrambling for food and other basics amid the ensuing harsh and often violent crackdown by police.
“Especially when I look at my poor brothers and sisters, I definitely feel that they must be thinking, what kind of prime minister is this who has placed us in this difficulty?” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his weekly broadcast address to the nation on 29th March. He ordered the lockdown five days earlier.
“I especially seek their forgiveness. I understand your troubles, but there was no other way to wage war against (the) coronavirus…It is a battle of life and death, and we have to win it.”
Indians in several states said the situation has been exacerbated by poor preparation by state governments and conflicting messages from central and state governments.
Clive Fernandes, a Catholic who manages a hotel in the western coastal state of Goa, said: “The local government has handled the situation very poorly. The availability of basic food items, fruit, vegetables and food stocks in our state was not maintained.”
Fernandes, whose hotel has been closed under lockdown rules, added that the home delivery system is a complete failure in most villages in the area, and no arrangements were made to feed migrant labourers, who often sleep where they work.
“This will lead to spreading the virus, as they are out on the streets in search of food. As well, there is no proper infrastructure in the hospitals, God forbid this virus spreads,” he said.
Picture: Migrant workers crowd outside a bus station in Ghaziabad, India, on 28th March 2020, as they wait to board buses to return to their villages during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of Covid-19. (CNS photo/Anushree Fadnavis, Reuters).