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Can President Trump end unrelenting repression in Kashmir?

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World today is facing a lot of serious problems for which USA is the chief cause and even instrumental. Two major issues- Palestine in West Asia and Kashmir in South Asia – continue to derail peace momentum globally. Of these, genocides of Kashmiris in Jammu Kashmir, being perpetrated by India, remain the crucial problem that has not received the attention it does deserve.

Like Israel, India also puts pressure n world powers not to interfere in Kashmir issue. Similarly, Indian sources do not let any news paper or media publish anything that supports the Kashmir cause or against Indian occupational crimes. Clearly, upon enduring constant repressive methods by Israel for decades of its occupation and proliferation of illegal settlement construction operations in Palestine, Palestinians are on their way to gain full and complete sovereignty from Israel by legal means as the UN has approved Palestine as a defacto member and now all-powerful UNSC passed a resolution to remove and end further Jewish settlements in Palestine.

For the first time in years since 1948 when Israel was imposed on Mideast, USA as refused to use its veto to protect Israel and defend its expansionist operations.

The establishment of Palestine sooner than later, thus, is a foregone conclusion. President Trump, though plays politics not to offend America’s close ally Israel, is reportedly supporting a sovereign Palestine state and two-nation solution in Mideast.

Probe of Indian occupational crimes

A recent civil society’ fact-finding report notes that the concentration of security forces in JK is among the heaviest in the world. An estimated 700,000 Indian Army, paramilitary and state police forces watch over a population of just 14 million. Literally every Muslim in Kashmir is under Indian military surveillance and terror cum fake encounter target.

Trump needs to address the problems Kashmiris face under Indian brutal occupation as Kashmiris face very similar problem as of Palestinians as its neighbor occupies their nation Kashmir and keeps attacking and killing Muslims there. Soon after the establishment of Palestine, USA should also take up the issue of Kashmiri struggle for sovereignty back and ensure security of Kashmiris Muslims as India, its military and media care only about security of Hindus living in JK, supporting Indian case in Kashmir. Indian media want every Muslims in Kashmir is killed if they don’t accept Indian brutality occupational crimes in Kashmir as their ill-fate. India simply cannot accept any protest in Kashmir.

The population of Jammu Kashmir, now India’s only Muslim-majority state, confronts unrelenting repression by heavily-armed central and state government security forces, including indiscriminate pellet-gun barrages, arbitrary and repeated arrests, and deliberate blinding and killing of unarmed protestors.

As Kashmir is reeling under continuous demonstrations and regular curfews imposed b the JK government to make life very difficult for the Kashmiris, last month a volunteer group, led by Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and Anuradha Bhasin of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PFPD), visited Muslim dominated Jammu and Kashmir, formerly a soverign nation but now India’s northern-most state for 10 days to study real situation in the most militarized zone on earth.

The expert report extensively documents widespread and shocking human rights violations by the Indian state and blatantly criminal behavior by security personnel.

For years, both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party as ruling dispensation alternatively play mischief with Kashmiris. India’s Hindu supremacist BJP government and its local partner, the J&K People’s Democratic Party (PDP), responded with ferocious violence to the mass protests that convulsed the Kashmir Valley during much of the summer and fall.

While India targeted Muslims only in its occupied Jammu Kashmir, it never bothered about Azad Kashmir, the portion that is occupied by Pakistan, but of course without nay brutality meanly because Kashmiris do not oppose Pakistani occupation as a crime but a boon to protect themselves from Indian atrocities. In late September, the BJP government in India, seeking to increase its Hindu vote banks, plunged South Asia into its gravest war crisis in at least 15 years. Wanting to showcase its military prowess, New Delhi ordered illegal and highly provocative cross-border raids inside Pakistan-held Kashmir ostensibly in reputed retaliation for the September 18 attack on the Indian military base at Uri, then vowed it would continue to impose an ‘unacceptable’ price on Pakistan until all attacks on India from Pakistan ceased.

When the 25-member fact-finding group visited Kashmir between November 11 and 20, the Indian and Pakistani armies were mounting massive military barrages across the Line of Control that separates Indian- and Pakistan-held Kashmir, effectively blowing apart the shaky truce that has prevailed between the rival nuclear-armed states since 2003. Kashmiris on both side of LOC feel heavily terrorized.

Turning point

India for years has adopted different strategies to silence Kashmiris from raising objections to Indian military misrule of Jammu Kashmir but has failed. New Delhi could not successfully use its government in Sri Nagar to work for Indian cause in the region. But military misadventures have harmed Indian cause of continued occupation of Jammu Kashmir.

Even after seeing the secret graveyards in Kashmir, revealing what has happened to those Kashmir Muslims who fought against military of India and imposition of extra military laws to give a free hand to the state killers in Kashmir, Kashmiris continue their struggle for sovereignty.

The worst and strongest ever Kashmiri national protests erupted following the July 8 ‘encounter killing ’by summary execution by India, which cannot tolerate any opposition from Muslim leaders for state repression and murders, of a 21-year-old leader of an Islamist, Kashmiri separatist insurgent group, the Hizbul Mujahideen. Rattled by the size and tenacity of the protests, the BJP government blamed them on “Pakistan-supported ‘terrorists” and ratcheted up pressure on Washington and Islamabad.

Its aims were two-fold: to draw attention away from the popular protests in J&K and their brutal repression at the hands of the India state forces and fanatic media and to compel Pakistan to end all logistical support for the quarter-century long insurgency in Indian-held Kashmir.

The ‘civil society’ fact-finding report notes that the concentration of security forces in JK is among the heaviest in the world. An estimated 700,000 Indian Army, paramilitary and state police forces watch over a population of just 14 million. The fact-finding volunteers traveled to the Kashmir Valley districts where the recent protests have been most widespread and gathered much evidence of the violence and humiliations that the Indian military and state police have imposed on the local populace. Moreover, because of the legal immunity granted the state police under the JK Public Safety Act (1978) and the army and paramilitary forces in Kashmir under India’s notorious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, they can and do act with impunity.

The report states ‘unarmed and symbolic protests in Kashmir have been met with sustained attack by the Indian army, police and paramilitary, including with the use of pellet guns, (chili-based) PAVA shells and firearms. Several deaths have been caused by targeted killings of unarmed civilians by armed forces even in the absence of protests or demonstrations.

The volunteers further found that most pellet-gun wounds have been above the waist, indicating that security forces have deliberately sought to blind and kill protesters. ‘Most deaths we came across’, say the volunteers, ‘have been caused by injuries waist-above, without any warning fire. Deaths and injuries caused by pellet guns too are all above the waist and preponderantly at eye level causing blinding or long-term ophthalmic damage.’

Indian security forces invariably justify their violence by dubbing its victims as ‘anti-national.’ In fact, this is a catch-all phrase that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government routinely employ against persons or organizations expressing even sympathy with the victims of the state repression in Kashmir. The report documents how families that pursue legal remedies against the security personnel responsible for the killing of their loved ones are subjected to raids, repeated arrests and even torture from the out-of-control security establishment.

Casualty counts vary, as the government is trying to cover up the scale of its repression and families often fear informing authorities that a member has been injured for fear of reprisals. But close to a hundred civilians have been killed since the protests erupted in early July. Many thousands more — the J&K daily Greater Kashmir claims 15,000 — have been injured.

Collective punishments, including destruction of property and animals and revenge attacks, akin to those Israel’s security forces mete out to the Palestinians, are the norm in Kashmir. The fact-finding report bears witness to this: ‘In the towns and villages where there were killings by the Indian Army, police and paramilitary, we met with ordinary people who narrated a cycle of search and seizure raids following killings, and of indiscriminate firing, including at funerals and memorial gatherings. In several of these instances the Indian Army, police and paramilitary broke windows and destroyed household goods, livestock, and food rations in peoples’ homes.’

In several villages and towns they visited, the armed forces, during their search and seizure operations, routinely destroy the local electricity transformer or sub-station, denying the entire village or locality access to electricity.’ The mass character of the protests in the Kashmir Valley have given the lie to the Modi government’s claims that the opposition to Indian rule is simply or mainly the product of Pakistani intrigue and ‘Pakistani-sponsored terrorism.’ The Kashmiri separatist groups supported by Islamabad were in fact taken by surprise by this summer’s eruption of mass protests.

The report describes the widespread popular disaffection with an Indian state that has repeatedly violated JK’s special autonomous status within the Indian Union, imposed ‘presidential’ or central government rule, rigged elections, and for decades resorted to mass repression, including ‘disappearances’, torture and summary executions. ‘From common people’, says the report, ‘we heard articulate accounts of what they have faced from the Indian state and, in particular, of the sustained attack on their democratic rights from 1989 onwards. The failure of the Indian state and every government since independence to address the political sentiments of Kashmiri people is a source of both hurt and enormous resentment.’

Indian parties speak in one voice against Muslims

The Modi government’s violent repression of the popular protests in JK has been politically aided and abetted by the opposition parties, including the Stalinist Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its Left Front.

Interestingly, all of them unequivocally defend the right of the Indian bourgeoisie to rule over Kashmir, have helped in the cover-up of the atrocities being carried out by Indian security forces in Kashmir, and have hailed the provocative military strikes that Indian Special Forces troops carried out inside Pakistan in late September.

India bases its claim not on the support of the Kashmiri people, but on the document of accession to the Indian Union signed by the last member of the British-backed Hindu princely dynasty that ruled Jammu and Kashmir.

India claims its prerogative to kill every Muslims in occupied Kashmir who refuses to accept Indian occupation. The reactionary character of the false Indian-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir is exemplified by the legal basis of their respective claims to ‘undivided’ Kashmir i.e., to all of the territories that had belonged, prior to Partition, to the British Indian Empire princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan’s claim is based on the reactionary ideology that underlies the Pakistani state: Kashmir is rightfully Pakistan’s because it is a majority-Muslim area contiguous to the Muslim ‘homeland’ in the subcontinents northwest.

Kashmiris, besieged between these two illogical claims, have been the target of both Indi and Pakistan.

Shockingly, the ruling as well as opposition parties are together when it comes to attack Muslims either in India or Kashmir or anywhere in the region.

Observation

As a mere formality, India continues to claim ownership of Jammu Kashmir and reiterates that Kashmir is an integrate part of India.

The Kashmir tragedy and the reactionary military-strategic rivalry between India and Pakistan with which it is inextricably enmeshed are the outcome of the reactionary communal Partition of South Asia. In 1947, South Asia’s departing British imperial overlords and the rival factions of the ‘national’ bourgeoisie divided the subcontinent into an expressly Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India.

While the India ruling class and its state machinery have repressed the people of Jammu Kashmir, the Pakistani corporate lords have run roughshod over the basic rights of the people of Pakistan-held Kashmir and systematically sought to manipulate the Kashmir question for its own profit ends.

The democratic rights of the Kashmiri people will be secured and the threat of a catastrophic nuclear war between India and Pakistan lifted only through a joint struggle of the common masses of the subcontinent to put an end to capitalist rule and establish genuine the Socialist regional system. That could help end blood bath in the region, in Kashmir, end terror attacks, open the way for the improved governance for the causes of people.

Notwithstanding the pressure tactics from Indian government being applied directly and through its former rulers UK and US government directly as a so-called strategic partners in terror machinations, and through Israel, one hopes President Trump would rise to the occasion to help and save the remaining Kashmiri Muslims by forcing both India and Pakistan to allow the Kashmiris to have rebirth of Kashmir to exist as a soverign nation in South Asia.

Meanwhile, Indian and Pakistani governments and political calls need to consider the normalcy of the region that is being harmed by the nuclear race and LOC conflict, usually fanatic Indian media mischief to promote state arrogance towards Muslims and Kashmir.

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South Asia

COVID-19 in India: The bright and the dark sides

Amrita Dhillon

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photo: interaffairs.ru

Many fortresses have collapsed and the invisible enemy has entered everywhere. Indians are at the doorsteps of one of the biggest threats looming. Indian government along with the state governments have announced a 21-days lockdown and requested all the citizens to stay at home, however, few of the essential services like groceries, pharmacies are open. 

It’s not easy for any country to let its economy stand-still and bear losses every single minute but India took that decision ultimately to protect hundreds of thousands of lives. A stand-still economy has bought days of despair and paralysed commerce across various key sectors throughout the nation but ultimately it will be protecting the bread-earners of the society.

Listening to Prime Minister Modi’s speech about the lockdown, he rightly said when countries like Italy which ranks next to none in health facilities cannot manage with the Pandemic, Indian infrastructure and population will have a great fall of the time. 

What will Lockdown do?

It is for the first time in history that such a huge mass of 1.3 Billion has been asked to self-quarantine themselves. This may not completely stop the virus from spreading but slows down the rate it was expected to create havoc. It will help flatten the curve and break the chain which is most important at this stage and that is what all other countries which have lockdown are trying to do. 

If we look at the figures, of the first 100 to 1,000 cases in Italy and the United States then we will find it took seven days in Italy to reach 1,000 cases with a rate of increase between 37%-90%, and Ten days in the United States to reach the first 1,000 cases with a rate of increase between 31%-58%. Whereas in India, it took 16 days to reach 1,000 cases with a rate of increase between 10%-29%. 

Moreover, after this big disaster, a country with a massive economy like the United States didn’t ask for a complete lockdown in their second-largest state New York till 25,000 positive cases and 250 deaths. By a lockdown, India still a step ahead of the first world countries.

What Indian government is doing other than lockdown?

Meanwhile trying to set up isolation wards to increase their capacity, Indian railway has turned its train coaches into hospitals and have asked their manufacturing units to make beds etc. to fight the problem.

India has also started private testing for this which will reduce the pressure on government hospital where testing is free for the public. Private testing cost (4,500 Rupees/$60) may seem very high to people but currently, the testing kits are exported and thus costing heavily. But by approving Indian companies to prepare locally which is estimated to be in the market from two to three weeks the cost will be reduced. 

However, The cost is still low if we compare the cost of private testing labs with the UK which costs 375 pounds and the United States labs which costs anywhere between $900-$3700.

India even brought its people back and providing hotel etc. to people where they could not. These cases would have been less if people took government advice of home quarantine seriously.

The Ugly Side

It will be wrong to compare India with First world nations which have the advance infrastructure and abilities. As per the healthcare capacity, India till now has dealt with the crisis pretty well.

Despite being one of the major economies, India still struggling with third world issues, for instance, 70% of Indian lives in rural areas or slums where they do not have options to self-isolate themselves into a pristine environment. Rather, they live amidst the fear of contamination by their neighbour or the people they’re sharing public toilets with.

Another issue is the healthcare facilities, which is not same in both urban and rural India, in small villages, or small cities far away from the commercial hustle may barely have a hi-tech hospital with isolation facilities. Which is another migraine for the government and local administration, as recently after the lockdown was announced many of the labourers and migrant workers moved back to their villages amidst chaos and panic to starve in big cities due to lack of their daily wages.

Governments on both the state and central level announced free food and requested house-owners to waive the rents for migrant workers. However, in a tech-haven like India, an ugly reality shows that a section of people and government are still not on the same digital-virtual-page.

Another similar story popped-out from the heart of the nation – New Delhi, where police found a group of around 2,000 people were hiding inside a mausoleum, out of them, many tested positive with COVID19. Moreover, many of the same group have travelled to different states and few of them have been tested positive. It is said, many non-Indians are found inside the group who may be one of the potential carriers of the deadly virus. Though it’s all about time which will tell where these migrations will take the toll of Coronavirus impact in India

Indeed the bigger problem is not the rural working labour population of India, a bigger threat came out of the incoming overseas crowd. Many Indians have found hiding their overseas travel information, including celebrities who tested positive later and met many people after their arrival. It is an arrogance, where NOT the government but so-called ‘educated and ignorant Indians’ to be blamed for.

How to fight this Pandemic

First of all, it is not only the government’s fight all the Indians are the foot soldier to this war against Corona. As the Prime Minister said, it’s a 21-day war and the best medicine is self-isolation.

Government is doing its part. But if we are comparing the response with the American or European governments, then its fault on our side, globalisation comes with a price and an open democracy like India are always at the receiving end of such prices. Indians need to drop their obsession with the Western media certifications. Media is one of the most responsible pillars for this fight against the pandemic and it need to act accordingly.

It’s a global problem and we all need to step up to fight this, religious organisations and corporations should come in front and equip the foot soldiers at the time of the pandemic. Those volunteers inside the non-government organisation who are distributing food owe us applauses.

 From our partner International Affairs

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Coronavirus, Critical Geographies and Geospatial Revolution: Redefining Epidemiology

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The subject of Geography has often been understood and considered as the Gazetteer with names of countries and information about them but this stream of knowledge has turned out to be the most important addition to our meaning and metaphors of our daily life from driving a car to identifying the critical hotspots/clusters of any disaster . ‘Space’ forms the kernel and core of geographical knowledge thus encompassing the phenomenon of body politic and social fabric in its entirety.  In contemporary times  with emerging  paradigms of ‘space episteme’, this intersection and contestation of topos with  the active political space  in the public discourse   has been righty  epitomized by Edward Soja as “spatial turn” of  this century. World has changed drastically in the spheres of climate, production, consumption and behavioural patterns with the imbalances and negative feedbacks being observed in the environment which prompted some scientists to propose  present epoch as “Anthropocene”Geography studies this changing  interaction of environment with the human responses in its comprehensive theoretical and scientific mechanism and subsequently modelling the impacts and patterns of this dynamic trend .Diffusion of diseases and the related outbreaks have also been modelled and the pathways tracked thus helping the world and regional health agencies framing policies an strategies  for mitigating the impact and spread of diseases. As currently world has been in the grip of deadly and sporadic pandemic disease named by WHO as COVID-19 and the virus as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses,geographical knowledge coupled with temporality of the incidence and spatial prevalence of this global health threat has proved to be the guiding light amidst the dark frontiers of  novel epidemiological characters of this outbreak

Geospatial Science and Public Knowledge

In this age of big data, the need of “Big Geospatial Data” becomes equally important given the complexities and dynamic nature of bio-physical and social interfaces. In the same vein geospatial knowledge has helped in the real time information delivery and public understanding of Coronavirus spread around the world. Most of the geospatial data platforms have been in the forefront currently for the data visualization, monitoring and concurrently its reach to the common people at any place of world and any time. WHO has provided the situational dashboard updated every 15 minutes providing a real time perspective for officials and users with easy-to-view visual interface using Geographical Information System  (GIS Science)  on region and case wise spread.

(WHO Novel COVID-19 Situation Visualization)

The enhanced and sophisticated real time information can be viewed through Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) . ESRI Disaster Response Program and ESRI’S ArcGIS Hub including the in-depth information from various operational dashboards with interactive data view providing key understanding and monitoring of global and feature datasets related of the virus and public knowledge.

ESRI ArcGIS Hub

The another platform were the expert epidemiological analysis of COVID-19 hyphenated with the public health analytics has been maintained by Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) with its own GIS operational setup mapping the similar trajectory in real time. Below is the snapshot of the site

Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

In India MapmyIndia Maps and Move app enabling users to locate, view and reach testing labs nearby and subsequent isolation and treatment facilities. Users can have the first-hand account of the facilities and can add reviews of the centres there and helping other users with updated and critical knowledge regarding the conditions and status of quarantine and isolation facilities MapmyIndia resources are designed for early detection and isolation of infected persons which are crucial in respect of spread of this disease

With the use of this metadata and imagery creating a robust GIS and comprehensive geo-databases in an analysis-ready format thus opening a new path for redefining epidemiological studies in concert with the pathways and vector based differentiations across the world. With the use of data mining and machine learning algorithms like Python and Anaconda  with the integration of geographical knowledge, it can help us in the accurate and reliable prediction of threats and stresses whether related to health or environment. Google Earth Engine uses this algorithm based geographical and environmental variables for predicting and subsequently providing the effective management strategies for the better and sustainable bio-physical and social environment.

Critical Geographies and Coronavirus

There has been an overarching ‘complexity turn’ within the geographical studies and it forms the essential pivot when it comes to the health landscape of any region as put forward by Anthony Gatrell .This has turned out to be the potential paradigm for social sciences having transformed much of physical and biological sciences with dissolution of binary divides whether media/socio-cultural, structure/agency, institutional/individual, environment/social etc..There is an immediate need to move beyond the traditional epistemes of geographical analysis and to explore further the added value of critical geographies for our research in health inequalities, disease ecology, and spatial diffusion. Many examples of critical geographies can be cited from the fact that institutions, organisation and governments have undermined the character and configurations of ‘geography’ when it comes to health infrastructure and individual healthcare facilities thus coronavirus has laid bare the response and system of approach of countries around the world. There are widespread inequalities when it comes to the healthcare geographies around the world, thus arising a need for global and uniform approach of healthcare governance in consonance with the changing contours of political and economic landscapes around the world. Critical geographies deconstructs the hegemonic geographies of the world in the lens of radical perspective and the consequent geo-economic and geopolitical undercurrents which is needed for the current disarrayed healthcare system of the world .At last keep resisting the virus and the injustices around your geographies.

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The Myth and Reality of Social Distancing in India: Challenges to fight COVID 19

Dr. Manasi Sinha

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Authors: Dr. Manasi Sinha and Pratyush Bibhakar

“Social distancing”—The Way out :A nasty and deadliest Spanish flu that started spreading around the world infecting and killing over 50 million of world’s population during world war I, was contained to a large extent by following measures now known as “social distancing”. This social distancing may be understood as creating a safety net by maintaining physical distance between two or more people so as to prevent or control or ‘flatten the curve’ of the transmission process of virus/flu. In the wake of uncertainty looming over safe and effective measures to eliminate pandemic COVID 19 which is the biggest, trickiest and deadliest war on humanity ever, many countries across the world are now implementing measures like “social distancing” in form of prohibiting mass gatherings, restricting entry to public spaces, shutting down schools, colleges and in some places a total lockdown is enforced by keeping people stay indoors.

India’s Strategy against COVID: However, in an unequal social system that thrives on stratification of class and communities, differentiation of labour, status and capital, social distancing may not be a successful strategy to get by. In an unequal stratified system like India, social distancing turns out to be a ‘privilege’ available only to the upper-class well-off Indians. For people at the lower strata, social distancing stands unbearable, as more than fighting a disease, they fight against hunger, wage and shelter in their daily lives. This may magnify their miseries and distress substantially. In the midst of21 days nation-wide lockdown in the largest democracy of the world, India has just witnessed how it has been tumbling not only in executing its strategy of social distancing to fight the growing coronavirus pandemic, it also has failed larger chunk of its mass–around 85% of this constitutes the informal workers— mostly migrated ones, who are the worst hit in absence of  a contingency plan to fight and survive this situation.

In line with following global strategy of enforcing strict lock downs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th March 2020 had announced a 21 days lockdown to contain the spread of COVID 19. A ‘Janta Curfew’ was initiated two days before on 22nd March to prepare Indians to fight the long battle against coronavirus outbreak. As the lock down continues, a total of 1251 COVID-19 cases  (including 49 foreign nationals) have been reported in 27 states/union territories  in India as on  30th March 2020(Source: Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).

The Ground Reality: While the infected numbers do not project a grim picture compared to other countries that are struggling to contain the virus, concerns growing in India, as nearly 85% of India’s population (roughly 120 million) appears to be stranded without basic security of food, wage and shelter. Migrant workers forms majority of this population, who work in construction sites, drive taxis, work in restaurants, staff factories, work in saloon, houses etc. thus often employed in low paid hazardous jobs. This informal workforce is also deprived of any social security benefits including paid leave etc. and they thrive on low wages. As such, they succumb to inevitable cycle of poverty, hunger and death as the city shuts down. COVID 19 pandemic is setting up similar ground for these people. In absence of availability of basic needs walking home for hundred miles  remains an only option left for them. They prefer to leave the city, they have lived for all their lives as it no longer shelters them and feeds them; itno longer brings hope of surviving poverty, hunger and their daily mundane needs—the city of dreams turns hostile and deeply inhospitable. As they set forth, many of them are stranded in big cities or stuck midway and are struggling to keep themselves safe and healthy. On 28th March, Saturday tens of thousands of workers flocked at various city-bus stations in efforts to reach home. In Anand ViharInter-state bus terminal, New Delhi, several migrant workers including women stood in a long 3 km queue for hours carrying their baggage with kids in hope of returning to their relatives and families in different parts of the country. “For two days the ration guys were not giving us any food, we were hungry for two days. So, we decided, ‘let us go to our parents’,” said Raju, a 24-year old migrant worker walking from Noida, a satellite town of Delhi, to Agra, nearly 200 km away. As such, this mass exodus becomes a potential blow to India’s coronavirus containment strategy as it presents a miserable scenario awaited in coming days. As on 30th March 2020 the situation got worsened further killing around 20 lives.

As other countries across the world havei nitiated measures to support their citizens, voices from civil society in India already mounting up pressure on the government to provide immediate cover of social security measures including cash transfers for daily wagers, informal sectors and migrant labourers particularly women who have little social and community support and therefore remain most vulnerable.

Existing Measures:

As ground reality remains challenging, diverse measures are taken by the Central and state governments to control the mass exodus of daily-waged workers. To fight against this deadliest pandemic, Indian government extended its support to protect the poor people hit by this lock down, by unveiling $22.6bn stimulus plan. The plan seeks to provide direct cash transfers and food security measures, thus offering relief to millions of people at this critical juncture. Further, the centre decided to provide three meals a day to more than 100,000 people living in 1500 shelter homes for the urban homeless across the country. There are directives given to all the states and union territories to use State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)to make arrangements for temporary accommodation, food distribution, clothing and medical facilities to the downtrodden ones particularly the migrant labourers. Some Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi have speeded up their initiatives to meet the basic needs of migrant workers by scaling up monetary assistance and providing ration facilities to the homeless.

However, panic continues and migrant workers still on their way back home because of two more reasons: First: the lock down triggered a wave of panic making hundred thousand of homeless workers frightened and terrified in absence of any administrative assistance and coordination from  government machinery. Second: with the expensive private healthcare and insufficient and unavailability of public health care facilities, the fear psychosis persists amongst these migrant workers making them non-complicit of ‘social distancing’.

The Anticipated Calamity and Lessons: Considering the gamut of India’s population and its diverse nature including these migrant population, immediate steps are required to provide a contingency plan for the migrant workers—who form the backbone of India’s economy. Failing to respond quickly to address this problem may lead to a worst situation that may further claim deaths of millions. As tens of thousands of migrants are in limbo and are not distancing themselves from others–they are prone to get infected quickly and in large numbers. After days of journey and returning to their villages, they may carry the symptoms of corona virus and may spread it among other communities, resulting into the dangerous III phase in which the pandemic advances towards community transmission across the country. Although the number of COVID 19 cases are still low in India as compared to other countries, experts have already warned against community spread as they think this may result into increased need for health facilities and India is yet to be equipped to facilitate and strengthen its health care sector. The existing measures like ‘Janata Curfew’, ‘Social distancing’ ‘21 days lock-down’ that India has opted for, may possibly protect its upper class people who could afford to stay inside home, however, the same is a fallacy for people at the lower strata because of the precarious life they live in. A calamity like COVID 19 may be taken as an experience to introspect upon a combination of development agenda, a contingency plan and management of strategies that India should keep as a stand by formula to mitigate any future crisis like this.

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