The Hungry, Lockdown Masses
When the Indian government boldly announced plans on March 24 to introduce a nationwide lockdown to halt the progress of Covid-19, it did so in its usual big government way. It neglected all the little details which go into a plan.
Among the things it forgot was migrant workers, one of the most underprivileged and poorest of urban dwellers who are largely responsible for building the concrete monstrosities which pass for Indian cities but share little in its affluence.
Within 24 hours of the lockdown, it soon struck everybody that the poor and the migrant workers, who lived hand-to-mouth would starve to death if they had no work for the initial 14 days of the announced lockdown.
The government then made a grandiose announcement - It would feed all registered migrants workers.
A 2,500-strong group of volunteers, many of them white-collar workers, were enrolled to start feeding activities. But as the days went on, it turned out that a majority of the food was being supplied, not by the government, but by private donors.
I realized the scale of the government's failure to keep its promise after visiting a run-off-the mill, middle-class neighborhood in the south of the city.
Migrant workers here said they had not been supplied once with government food, during the entirety of the lockdown.
Most had been told by their employers not to come to work and nearly all had run out of money.
Being heavily dependent on the promised food aid, many had been going hungry for days on end or feeding on scraps. That this is happening in a country which wants to go to moon, but is incapable of taking care of its legions of hungry, was unsurprising.
A pair of housemaids with their children, at their encampment. The women had been told not to go to work during the lockdown. They had since run out of money. The women said they were anxious to return to their home villages, far from the city, but could not move out because of the lockdown.