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Hunger of Millions, Behind Our Easy Breath Today - COVID 19

Last day, news from the city Amritsar was embarrassing, as one woman was taking another pregnant woman on a rickshaw in search of grocery. In a video being shown by a local channel, she was explaining how she was being called to different places by the authorities and still did not get grocery. Even a large number of migrant workers in India today are not able to arrange any grocery or food. The owners of the workers in many factories are not able to pay their daily wages.

Without any implementation of the policies on the ground, the government is just asking owners to pay their workers and workers are getting their wages in the air. I do not blame anyone for that.

Last night, I came to know about ten Kashmiri men stranded in Amritsar. These are the men who generally come to the villages of Punjab to sell door to door Kashmiri hand made items of clothing to earn their livelihood. Immediately after the lockdown, they tried to return to their homes, but they could not go beyond the city Pathankot. They had to come back to Amritsar, find a place to rent out and arrange a gas cylinder to cook. They somehow managed for a month however in the fifth week of lockdown they are left with no money, empty gas cylinder and no grocery at all.

When I spoke to the stranded Kashmiri men on the phone around 8 pm, I told them that my village is 30 km away from where they are staying right now. I asked them to somehow arrange dinner for today and early morning I will send them grocery along with the gas cylinder. He replied in a hopeful tone that even if you come and check now, we are hungry since morning. I felt inside, they were really starving. At the same time, I arranged for a cylinder and grocery with the help of my friends. In a normal scenario before lockdown, they used to earn and then eat from roadside food stalls. There are many people who want to return to their home but cannot go. They have been forced by the current situation to live on rent. They are helplessly and unwillingly living away from their families. Their parents and children are waiting. Whatever earning they were supposed to take back home to run and support their families, they have already spent. Today, due to lack of money, they are also hungry and so are their children living in other states. It could not be neglected that the women from their families back at Kashmir have worked hard on stitching and embroidering and finally could not earn from it.

I hope you remember, How Indians were brought back from overseas by arranging special flights? Many people also came back to my state Punjab. I am sad to learn the understanding of the policymakers who can send aircraft to other countries to bring back the people but cannot help the common people to reach their home from one state to another.

Most of the people migrate to other states within India in search of work. Their living and financial support to families back home depend on their daily wages. In Punjab and many other states, eight to ten people live together in one room, just to save their rent. Such hard-working workers who do not believe in begging and asking money from others, save Rs 50-100 daily to send back home every month. If we talk about UP, Bihar, there are almost large families of migrants who hope for 3000- 4000 rupees every month, to receive. People who are sitting in an air-conditioned room like me, think food is enough to help somebody in these tough times. We never consider that the monthly saving of a migrant worker serves all of his family, somewhere in a very remote village of India, where their innocence and illiteracy cannot imagine what Coronavirus is? It is important to mention here, more than 210 million people in India do not have access to Television, and millions of people still do not have access to even radio.

India has over 45 million migrant workers. Imagine a migrant worker is working in Punjab and an elderly person in his family back in other state need money for medicines, someone's wife is pregnant, Considering such common scenarios which are very true, today the plight of a migrant worker is pitiful. We and our government must get to the bottom of such situations and understand that only food is not enough, money is desperately needed by the people.

Daily problems of the poor, shaming humanity are being buried in Corona's noise. Suppose 5 singers are standing on the stage and only one has the mic, obviously we can hear only one person singing. Today only Corona has a mic and all other problems left unheard. The tragedy is that even though we are educated, we are only listening to Corona and selfishly ignoring many of the problems and news indirectly related to it.

Today morning I was reading an article at Washington Post, mentioning "A painter Mukesh Mandal, 30, decided to sell his phone. He used to work as a house painter before the coronavirus lockdown, now entering its fifth week in India, made it impossible to find jobs. With the 2,500 rupees he got from the pawned phone, he bought a fan and some sacks of grain. He handed over the rest of the money to his wife, Poonam. A day later, he strung a cloth around a bamboo pole and hanged himself."

Sadly, a large number of deaths in India will now be due to starvation and will not be even heard. Families will also prefer to cremate their loved ones in silence as the dead will be considered corona patient by the society around rather than someone who committed suicide or died a natural death.

We have become selfishly ruthless, we are not ready to understand the painful situation on the ground and falsely believe everything is fine. Believe me, It's a matter of life or death today. The media has to take it's responsibility very seriously. Many Indians are suffering and the media should help to highlight and quickly resolve the problems related to hunger and health. Media should become the voice of helpless.

I have been watching many media channels where the government claims that there is no scarcity of food. I also believe that there is no shortage of food in our country but there is a dearth of food distribution efforts by the government and the people like us. If there is no shortage of food at the grassroots level, then my question is why so many non-profits are working on providing food today? If the government is truly capable of managing the livelihood of everyone, then I suggest to the government that volunteers of non-profits and the government employees sitting at home should be assigned the work to conduct door-to-door surveys in every village, town and city. Further, they should honestly make the list of families who need grocery and medicines irrespective they are migrant or not. It is not the time to see people as Gujrati, Punjabi or Bengali, it is time to treat everyone Indian.

When people are helped by the non-profits, to keep their record and add on more donors non-profits have to click photos or make videos, which is completely ok. Sometimes it affects the dignity of the middle class who never happen to ask for the food in their life. The government should step in here too.

I especially want to mention that the grocery provided by the government should not restrict to wheat, rice, pulses or sugar. Milk for children and medicines for the whole family should also be an important part of the relief provided. The relief provided is very much politically biased and still, it has not reached to the millions of people in India.

India has been able to test 211 persons for every one million residents and experts believe that India might be able to flatten the curve. The current data suggest that India may not be the next Italy, Spain or the United States.

"In India, behind the easy breath of rich and middle class, there is the hunger of millions of helpless families" We should realize and acknowledge the huge sacrifice. Instead of being grateful, compassionate and giving towards them, the population and the illiteracy of the poor have been considered as a problem. I can see clearly that "We are breathing because someone is starving today" Are you feeling the same?

My Honest Writings

Mandeep Kaur Sidhu

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