It’s been a few days since the nation-wide lockdown started, and most of us have already downloaded apps that let us talk and play with our friends, challenged people on Instagram videos, and cribbed a fair share of times on how the lockdown is so difficult!
During the same time, a migrant worker made plans to walk over 150 km, carrying his young child on his shoulder, with little to no savings, no food, and no transportation. So, who has the lockdown really been difficult for?
As we sit in the comfort of our homes, we need to understand that in a country like India, social distancing is a privilege.
When families of five people or more live in a one-room house, social distancing is a distant reality.
As we complain about miscommunication while working from home, we fail to realize that having a job that can be undertaken from home is a privilege.
Because a large section of India’s informal workforce is left with no job and their employers have not provided them with adequate compensation.
Worse still, many of these workers are not registered and thus, may not be able to access the funds allocated by the government for their relief.
As we get dejected over all the trips we can’t take anymore, there are workers traveling for days, on foot, with just one hope – to reach a place they call home.
India’s lockdown has exposed with unerring accuracy the huge class divide that makes up our nation and made it crystal clear that ‘staying at home’ is a luxury.
Nations across the globe are grappling with the disturbing reality of having far too many patients, and not enough healthcare workers or equipment.
But for India, another harsh reality is a segment of the population that still fears hunger and unemployment far more than a pandemic virus that has globally, already claimed the lives of over 34,000 people.
Delhi: Migrant labourers have started leaving for their hometown in neighbouring states. A labourer says “We’re going to Badaun(UP) from Okhla. We’re hungry from 2 days. Biscuit pack which used to cost Rs 10 now costs Rs 30. We’ve no money. We’ll die either of hunger or #COVID19” pic.twitter.com/9SY2iD5Tc4— ANI (@ANI) March 27, 2020
Why? Because for them, there are no savings for the long-term, only the imminent threat of survival. They don’t have investments for a rainy day, because their earnings are on a day-to-day basis. They don’t have permanent homes in the city, because their job is not permanent.
And they most definitely can’t tweet about the lack of clarity in the PM’s speech, that led to people crowding the local grocery store. Because their reaction to the speech was to rush to a bus stop and watch their hope of reaching home get shattered.
There is either a lack of communication, or a lack of trust in the government, because, despite the various measures introduced, the migrant workers are still sleeping under the open sky, but not out of choice.
कल आनंद विहार और ग़ाज़ीपुर के पास दो स्कूलों में बनाए नाइट शेल्टर्ज़ … रहने और खाने की व्यवस्था . पहले दिन केवल 7-8 आदमी ही आए उम्मीद है अब आएँगे और इसका फ़ायदा उठाएँगे pic.twitter.com/RZklf2AKcg— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) March 29, 2020
The image of migrant workers crowding at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus terminal will remain embedded in my mind, long after the lockdown is over. I hope it remains embedded in your memory too.
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
I hope that you and I remain aware and hold the government responsible for where their measures were simply not enough. I hope that none of us partake in misguided blame games, but rather, spread information on how to do our bit for the society.
But more importantly, I hope the story of people, including children, dying from hunger on the way ‘home’ moves all of us enough to put aside our political ideologies and do what we can to help those in need, no matter how little the amount or how big the effort.
If this lockdown has exposed the huge class divide of our country, it has also given us the tools to bring change. It has allowed us to check our privilege and understand that while missing our friends, outings or trips is natural, it can not be considered equal to the loss that daily wagers and migrant workers are bearing.
This is tragic.— Gurdeep Singh Sappal (@gurdeepsappal) March 27, 2020
Unprecedented back migration to village. No transport, just on foot. Govts need to wake up to the dimension of this human suffering.
I drove about three km from Delhi Gate, NH24. It’s an unending stream, in light drizzling rain. pic.twitter.com/k8osTi33gN
So if you can, spare a thought for the workers who can not follow social distancing, no matter how much they desire to. If you believe in a God, any God, say a prayer for the doctors, the nurses, but also the sanitation workers working tirelessly without proper equipment, to keep us safe.
Give your house help paid leaves. If you can, provide masks and sanitizers to your security guards. If you are receiving food or grocery orders, tip the riders making your delivery generously. If you see sanitation workers doing their rounds early in the morning, ask them if they need anything – something as simple as a glass of water. Contribute wherever and howsoever you can.
The world today is in a state of collective grief, as we all grapple with the rapidly changing fabric of human society. In these trying times, choose to lend a helping hand. Chose kindness.
Here is a list of organizations, working for various causes, that you can donate to. You can also donate to PM Cares relief fund.