How Covid Lockdown Is Causing Devastation In India
The Holocaust is an expression which is usually associated to extermination of European Jews by the Nazis. But in India a Holocaust has taken place which though not amounting to large scale extermination of human beings has resulted in horrible misery to a large section of the 1350 million people of India.
I am referring to the massive calamity in India pursuant to the lockdown imposed by the Indian Government in April 2020, and thereafter by several state governments, consequential to the covid pandemic.
Much is reported in the Indian and foreign media of the daily covid cases ( about 300,000 ) and the covid deaths. Scenes are shown on TV screens of bodies being cremated, and accounts given of shortage of vaccines, oxygen cylinders, beds in hospitals for covid patients in India.
But scant information is given of the monumental havoc caused in the lives of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Indians due to the lockdown.
Soon after the Indian Prime Minister imposed the nationwide lockdown in April 2020, huge numbers of workers in the informal sector of the Indian economy, who comprise of about 85% of the total Indian workforce–migrants, contract, casual and temporary employees–fled the Indian cities and moved, often trekking hundreds of miles with their families on foot, to their villages, many dying on the way.
When it was thought the worst was over, a second wave of covid, probably caused by a mutant virus, hit India, and lockdowns have been continued.
It is submitted that the illnesses and deaths due to covid, which has been highlighted by the media, pale in significance before the horrendous tragedy which has occurred in the lives of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of the Indian people resulting from the lockdown.
Here are some facts :
(1) Since one year many lawyers, particularly junior lawyers, have no work and no income, as courts are not functioning regularly, and online courts are hardly any substitute. Many junior lawyers who were practising in Delhi have migrated to their hometowns in UP, Bihar, MP, south India, etc as they have no money to pay the rents or survive in Delhi. Some have been reduced to selling vegetables, driving e-rickshaws, and what not. The same is the situation in most courts in the country.
Since lawyers have little or no work, their clerks, peons, etc have also been laid off. What effect this would have had on their families can only be imagined.
The same is the plight of many other professionals, e.g. accountants.
(2) Regarding shopkeepers, I received this email from one of them recently :
” I own a clothing store in Delhi. The earning are 0 from 18 April as the shop is closed since then. By God’s grace, we have enough savings to survive the lockdown but not everyone is that fortunate. Shopkeepers who are on rent had to close/empty their shops as they don’t have money to pay rent of their already closed shops. Many of them are now selling vegetables on Riksha. Some, small shop owners open their shops in the evening. The local police constable takes bribes daily from such shop owners and vegetable sellers “.
(3) This is another email I received :
“My name is Asif Javed. I am a law student who hails from india’s most backward district which is called Mewat(Haryana). Sir our district is totally dependent on agriculture. Main sources of income is agricultural produce. 30 to 50 percent village youngsters are truck drivers who get minimal salary for their work.Sir agriculture is no more a profitable occupation because of the higher inflation in all essential fundamental edibles and others.People of villages of Mewat are coming out from their houses and selling cheapest items by roaming from village to village.Some people are selling edibles like vegetables,fruits,birayani etc on village roads.. And these activities are giving them only some coins to meet two time food not more than this. Shops have been allowed to be open but customers are very few because of the income issue.”
(4) An employee of Honda company in Delhi met me recently and informed me there is no work and he is getting only half his salary. The same is the position of employees in many companies. As per the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) data, it is estimated that due to the lockdown about 150 million people in India have lost their jobs
(5) Many private school teachers are working on reduced salary, or not being paid.
(6) Hotels, restaurants, parlours, etc have been badly hit. So has the transport industry, including drivers.
(7) As regards the plight of students in the country, this is an email I received from a student:
Mr. Markandey Katju
Sub: College students facing immense loss.
I have been following your Facebook posts for a long time .
Relating to that , I would like to discuss a major issue that the students are facing . The colleges ( and hostels ) in India have been closed since last year due to Covid19 . So, now it has been almost a year and a most of college students are sitting inside their homes.
In my opinion , college life plays a very important part in our lives . And Hostel life even more. College life is much more than Academics . Here , students are supposed to grow Socially and Mentally in addition to Academics . Hostel life prepares a student to face the complications of the real world . To be denied a healthy college and hostel life , I feel , is an Immense loss students are suffering.
At a time when students are supposed to be enjoying Fests , attending Seminars , participating in competitions , dancing , singing , playing volleyball , Planting trees in campus , Enjoying with friends , going for a trip , applying for an internship , doing parade during Republic day etc etc we are here sitting inside our homes and glued to a screen in the name of online class or scrolling Youtube/Instagram.
Not everything suits Online mode . A Civil Engineer graduating from online learning. How does it sound? Would you like to live in that house which he has constructed?
The Education system is only concerned on how to qualify the students. No one is concerned about how much we learn or how much practical knowledge we have.
Please address this issue through your F/B . Please give your opinions too.
Currently pursuing Engineering from NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY , Silchar , Assam.
The devastation caused by the lockdown on the Indian economy, and on human lives, is stupendous and massive.
Considering the fact that accurate data is usually unavailable in India, particularly from rural areas where 60-65% of Indians live, we can safely believe that conditions are much worse than as reported.
One shudders to think what hell most common Indians are going through. Many would be on the verge of starvation with their families, many may have committed suicide. We are mostly in the dark about all this, as our media, more busy in reporting politics, lives of film stars and cricketers, does not ordinarily condescend to report such sordid facts and details.
Terrible times have come in India
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.