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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 17 New Delhi, April 11, 2020

LETTER TO THE READERS - COVID 19 Lockdown Edition No.3

Saturday 11 April 2020

The pandemic Corona Virus has already caused real havoc in many parts of the world including the major developed countries like the US. European states like Italy, Spain and France have also suffered having become victims of the scale of spread of the virus, leading to the number of casualties among their citizens.

Lately, India too has borne the brunt of the Covid-19 attacks with the number of casualties on the rise in a brief span of time. This in itself is a matter of serious concern given the visible paucity of tests in the country in general even if some medical experts feel the persons in authority are doing a great job due to the early imposition of lockdown in comparison with other states, especially those in the west, on this score. However, due to manifold complexities in India and its bulging population, there is every prospect of things getting out of control within a short time if vigilance is not promptly exercised and citizens remain unprepared for any eventuality.

There has been a sudden spurt in Corona Virus across the globe = as Christians around the world observed Good Friday (April 10) today with the global virus toll crossing 100,000. The World Health Organisation has declared that lifting lockdowns too soon may result in deadly resurgence of the virus.

As we all know the adverse conditions created by Covid-19 has led to a major crisis in unemployment in several sectors. This of course is not limited to India. On Thursday, April 9 (The figures of unemployment in America since the outbreak of Corona Virus soared past ten per cent; now it is known that 16.8 million have sought US jobless aid since the virus manifested itself. This has led experts to insist that the country is facing the worst rate of joblessness since the Great Depression. This also is a source of grave anxiety.

Two specialists have today highlighted the way in which the Covid-19 crisis has affected rural India "The thousands of migrant workers who have returned to their villages since the lockdown used to send home remittances," they wrote. In Bihar, they disclosed, these remittances accounted for 35.6% of the Gross State Domestic Product in 2011-12 up from 11.6% in 2004-05 and they raise a pertinent query: How will the villagers in Bihar, or Odisha for that matter cope with the new situation ?

Thereafter they underlined: ".....the Covid-19 crisis, by revealing the magnitude of the migrant worker phenomenon should open the eyes of the urban dwellers to the grim situation of India’s agriculture.’

Dear readers, once again we are coming out with this issue that is going only online. It carries several important articles which we hope will be profitable for you in the present context.

Meanwhile, India’s response to COVID 19 so far has shown glaring lapses in planning and a clear anti-poor bias

Yes India like the rest of the world is faced with a gigantic health emergency, but declaring a sudden lockdown across the country has inflicted huge collateral damage on the urban poor and migrant labour who are out of work and left to fend for themselves. It had led to a major social crisis for the urban poor who don’t have tenured or protected jobs and who earned daily wages and at best of times had a reserve to keep going only for week.

The administrative elites are it seems totally unaware of a ground reality where the large number of services in the economy are rendered by informal labour with no social protections. It should have been evident to all that a lockdown would imperil the hundreds and thousands of people with precarious jobs and they would be homeless and with no food The need of the hour now is to protect and feed the people rendered hungry and out of work and not to lock them up in prisons. The health emergency cannot be tackled if it is insensitive to the social reality of the vast numbers of Indians.

The Editor, 10 April 2020

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted