Poverty and Lockdowns
My parents are from India. So I do follow Indian news to some extent. Along with many others worldwide, I was filled with sadness when COVID-19 swept through the subcontinent. I watched scenes on the online site WION of relatively young people gasping for breath, and funeral pyres operating around the clock. There were heartbreaking interviews of people mourning loved ones or begging for oxygen tanks.
Some countries did send help to the beleaguered country. The Indian government also imposed some drastic measures to contain the pandemic.
Giving people only 4 hours of notice, the Modi government imposed a 3 week national lockdown on March 24th, 2020. This event occurred in response to confirmed caseloads reaching about 500 people. Observers believe that this measure reduced the spread of the disease — the rate of doubling first went to 6 days and then, by April 18th, it had gone to 8 days. Based on these results, Prime Minister Modi extended the nationwide lockdown for another 20 days, until May 3rd, though regions that had experienced lower case loads were allowed to relax the measures somewhat. However, overall lockdowns were not partially lifted until the end of May.
While these measures helped contain the spread of the disease, they also came with costs. The people most hurt were, as always, the most vulnerable.
After the Indian government announced its lockdown, the country experienced its largest mass movement since its 1947 partition. This was due to migrant workers as well as some day laborers leaving the cities to go back or immigrate to their ancestral villages, where they still had family. According to the 2011 census, about 37% of India’s population was made up of migrants. Most are day-laborers who travel from states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal to add to India’s burgeoning urban growth.
Unfortunately, many of these workers and their families faced starvation due to the lockdowns.
The average daily wage for an unskilled worker in India is about $6. The work they do is often quite hard, and when I traveled in India, I saw women and children as well as men doing such manual labor as carrying loads of bricks on construction sites. What makes this even…