India, COVID19 and Inequality

India: Under Lockdown

Al Jazeera (2020)

Film Review

This documentary focuses on the devastating impact of India’s COVID19 lockdown on millions of the country’s migrant workers. India is experiencing a similar pattern to China, with many rural adults migrating to the city for work – and sending money back home to their families.

When Indian prime minister Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown on March 24, he ordered 1.3 billion residents confined to their homes with four hours notice. The immediate effect was to leave millions of casual workers without jobs and with no means to return to their rural villages.

The filmmakers focus on New Delhi, a city of 20 million. When public transport was shut down, thousands of migrant workers tried to walk home along the freeways. Most were stopped and sent back to the slums. There they live, without soap or running water, in makeshift huts, many made from cotton sheets.

At the time of filming, the government was trying to provide two meals a day (consisting of rice and soup) for millions of stranded migrant workers. However it’s estimated several hundreds of thousands missed out.

In New Delhi, United Sikh Volunteers helped fill the gap by cooking and distributing balanced meals to starving migrant workers. People could ring a hotline to let the Sikh volunteers know where food was needed. Their goal was to reach 10 slums a day.

An even bigger problem than food for poor residents was access to medical care. To keep beds open for COVID19 patients, free public hospitals turned away patients with cancer and other life threatening illnesses.

 

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