In the wake of the novel Covid-19 pandemic, the nation is under a complete twenty one day lockdown. All work except that of essential services has been put on hold. The hardest hit by this move are the daily wage workers owing to the nature of their job. One such incident of extreme poverty and hunger surfaced online recently from Varanasi, P.M. Modi’s own constituency.
On 25th March, a group of six children of the Musahar community living in the Musahar Basti in Koiripur village in Varanasi were photographed eating grass. The six kids have been identified as Rani, Pooja, Vishal, Neerhu, Soni and Golu, according to The Wire.
Musahar Basti has ten families and about twelve kids under the age of ten. The earning members of these families are daily wage workers who work in construction factories and brick kilns nearby. Unable to find food due to the lockdown, the children of these families were forced to eat grass that is usually used as cattle food.
Raj Kumar Tiwari, a local reporter saw these kids and reported about it.
As the images started going viral on social media, the administration intervened. In a video acquired by The Wire, Sanjay Kumar Singh, a station officer nearby was seen assuring them and even offering to help. He was seen saying, “You should have reached out to the police station, or to the SDM. Go to the Pradhan. If he doesn’t listen to you, come to us if you are in trouble.”
Kaushal Raj Sharma, the D.M. of Varanasi has made 15 kgs of ration available to the villagers with assistance from Sanjay Kumar and the village Pradhan.
According to The Wire, one of the male members of the village was reported saying, “We have received about 15 kgs of grocery for the next 21 days, and in the next month they have said they will again help us if we need it.”
A woman from the village, said, “For the past few days, people here were close to dying. My kids were so hungry, they had to eat grass with salt and water. We went to the Pradhan, he didn’t help us. He said he’ll see what can be done. Only after 3-4 days, we received some food –we don’t know if that too will be enough for all the houses here.”
Ajay Rai, an ex MLA, and current Congress member also sent some relief materials to the village. He also said that people of that area can only dream about things such as “sanitisers” or soaps. So, he said that he has sent soaps along with food items to the village.
While the local administration was just on time to provide for the local villagers this time, it is only a guess what is happening in the rest of the country now and what will have in the future. It is imperative that the central government works hand in hand with the state and local authorities to ensure that no one goes hungry in such times.