Monday, May 18, 2020

SWAT ANALYSIS: COVID-19 India lockdown: So what if you give birth on roads and die on rail tracks, dear migrant workers? We are blind.

‘We have stripped you of dignity, taken away your humanity, made you destitutes' Migrant mum and child
Image Credit: Twitter



  
My dear fellow productive citizens (to cover up our own inadequacy we call you migrants) I want to offer you an apology at the outset. We failed you - India failed you.

We see you dying on rail tracks, young babies included; we see dozens mowed down in accidents piled up like roadkill; we see you carry your children and pets in your arms (you don’t abandon anyone); hoist your parents on your shoulders and even give birth on the roads.

I apologise because we look away as if this is an embarrassment foisted on us. You know how you made your death a theatre in that attention seeking way “these people” have.

There was no question of leaving their pets behind for these migrants.
There was no question of leaving their pets behind, for these migrant workersImage Credit: Twitter

I have been told, berated repeatedly on social media by fine upstanding folk of the middle class who have access to social media. “Why were they sleeping on rail tracks?” Hurt at our callousness, I retorted: “Because the penthouse suite of the five star was not available.” People repeatedly wonder why “these people walk on the road” when trains our available.

Our Supreme Court, the court of last appeal for all Indian citizens, has declined to intervene in your plight, “saying what can we do if the migrants walk on the road”.

Fine upstanding citizens attacked me post the Supreme Court comment saying that I was a “Modi-hating sickular presstitute, part of a global conspiracy to defame India”.

Incidentally, the Union of India had said confidently in an undertaking to the same Supreme Court that no migrants are walking on the road as the Centre had made all arrangements.

Actually trains are available, but you need a smartphone to see the schedule and buy a ticket and you can’t board any train with the government’s Arrogaya Setu app downloaded on to your phone.

Most of you sold your mobile phones to buy food for the journey, some thousands of kilometres - such as from Delhi to Mumbai. This was remiss of you - the government may not provide trains and buses or indeed food and water, but it could have kept an eye on you via the app.

Learn to be self reliant please
One of you told me that your three-year-old died because for a week she did not have enough water and was only eating glucose biscuits. Our government wants us to be “self-reliant” so you made a mistake – you should have carried a varied organic diet. And come on, do I need to tell you the importance of hydration in the Indian summer? When you were employed as a maid you carried little miss baby’s water bottle around, didn’t you?

Migrant worker
Migrant worker cries on the side of a road in IndiaImage Credit: Twitter

One member of the government pointed out that children always like to hitch rides on their parents’ suitcases when an image of a three-year old exhausted little boy sleeping on a suitcase went viral. Of course, the difference between boarding a plane and walking thousands of kilometres is just a matter of perception.


The government is giving stimulus in soap opera fashion with daily episodes, but you will miss it as you walk. This is your problem -- you missed the importance of the space sector and airports privatization, which is critical I pandemic relief.

Yes, the most draconian lockdown in the world was imposed at four hours’ notice, but that was just the government testing your “self-reliance” skill. Sorry you failed.

Now I know that most of you don’t want to come back and do the essential jobs you do to keep the Indian economy going because you were thrown out by your landlords and not even paid. But you see we have changed the rules -- you will now work a 12-hour shift for the same payment that you got for an eight-hour shift.

And we have to keep India going. So you better come back. We are kind -- we won’t force you to walk back. We will arrange trains, but you will have to pay for the tickets - no such thing as a free lunch.

One of you told me that you would prefer to die of hunger in your village, but not be treated like this again. Sorry, you don’t have that choice.

We have stripped you of dignity, taken away your humanity, made you a destitute from a wage earning citizen, but currently the Indian economy can’t survive without you.

I know that no other country in the world has treated its most vulnerable so badly. See that is why I apologised. Now come back. Or the police that randomly beats you up on the highway and upends your carts when you are trying to sell fruits and vegetables will get angry.

Don’t blame us then.—Gulf News

Swati Chaturvedi shirttail, Swati Chaturvedi intro, Swati Chaturvedi

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