Date: 12 Shawwal 1441   Wednesday 03 June 2020

  • Last Update: Wednesday 03 June 2020، 15:15:35.

Featured
India’s coronavirus lockdown threatens to turn into human tragedy

06:32 01 April 2020 Author :  

A week after Narendra Modi ordered the largest national lockdown the planet has ever seen and Delhi's Bhogal market is little quieter than usual.

Rather than being confined to home to stop the spread of Covid-19, large groups of residents instead huddle together in the shade, drinking tea and playing cards.

Street vendors continue to hawk fresh fruit and vegetables and the police watch as daily life in the capital's backstreets continues, apparently content to enforce movement restrictions only on the capital's major thoroughfares.

The failure to abide by the prime minister's decree is due to necessity, rather than defiance, said Muhammad Asif, 21, a cycle-rickshaw driver scanning the crowd for customers.

The three-week-long social distancing precautions ordered by Mr Modi are an unaffordable luxury for tens of millions of daily-wage labourers.  

With no savings to his name, Mr Asif cannot afford to remain at home and needs his daily earnings of a little over £5 to cover food, rent and medical bills for his family.

“We absolutely do not have any money to take the government precautions,” Mr Asif he explained.

Sanitiser, a mask, soap and even excess water to wash his hands are beyond his reach.

“If death has to come, it will come wherever I am, I can’t afford to run away,” he says.

The problem of millions forced to choose between poverty and defying restrictions is quickly turning into both a public health and political headache for the Indian leader.

An estimated 120 million Indian labourers are in the same predicament as Mr Asif, and Mr Modi has been accused of causing a humanitarian disaster by locking down the cities and unleashing a wave of poor migrant workers.

Many of those who have been forced out of work have streamed back along highways and railway lines to their home states and villages, potentially spreading the coronavirus infection into the country's hinterlands.

Mr Modi's lockdown was a knee-jerk reaction without thought for the consequences to the poor, claimed Manish Tewari, an MP for the Congress party.

“You have millions of poor, marginalised, displaced on the march and the government has left them to their own fate,” he told the Telegraph.

“You have millions of people carrying their meagre belongings and having to march hundreds of kilometres to find safety.”

The spectacle of destitute workers setting out to walk hundreds of miles home after they lost their jobs caused Mr Modi to make a rare apology at the weekend.

Many of those hardest hit are from his own party faithful.

"I apologise for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people," Mr Modi said in his monthly address on Sunday, broadcast on state radio.

"I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle."

While India by Tuesday had reported barely 1,500 cases and fewer than 50 deaths, health officials fear the virus could wreak havoc in the world's second most populated nation.

A lack of testing is thought to hide a far more widespread infection among the 1.3 billion population.

Moreover, in a country which spends little on healthcare and where many poor extended families live in cramped lodgings, the conditions could favour a rapid spread of the killer virus.

India's young population may be expected to provide some protection from worst of the death rates seen elsewhere.

The median age in the country is 28, compared with 47 in Italy.

But at the same time, the country is plagued with health conditions known to increase the impact of the pneumonia-causing virus.

India has more diabetics than any other country, while it also has the highest burden of tuberculosis. Indian cities top the world for the worst air pollution.

Faced with the threat, and a widespread failure to comply with restrictions, some neighbourhoods were taking their own protective measures on Tuesday.

After the south Delhi neighbourhood of Nizamuddin was identified as one of 10 coronavirus hotpots, residents of the neighbouring Sarai Kale Khan area used police barricades to block a connecting underpass.

Those trying to cross were threatened.

One distraught mother said she had crossed to buy groceries and become trapped, unable to reach her young children stranded on the other side.

Several streets away, the Telegraph was chased away by an angry mob claiming the disease is only being spread by foreigners.

Back at Bhogal market, Rakesh Kumar Jain, a 60-year-old greengrocer, said business was good despite the lockdown.

Few people had fridges, forcing them to come out and shop each day and add to the daily crowds, he said.

“People are seeing all the facilities around them in the market, so why would they stay at home,” added one resident, Sanjay Goel,from his balcony.

“They are leaving their homes even for one lemon. It is going to spread.”

Read 1833

Related News:

Weather

Partly Cloudy

15°C

Kuwait

Partly Cloudy

Humidity: 75%

Wind: 30.58 km/h

  • 04 Jan 2019

    Sunny 18°C 12°C

  • 05 Jan 2019

    Mostly Sunny 17°C 11°C

  • Most Popular
  • Most Commented
Top