A plan to revive a broken economy

Harsh Mander, Jayati Ghosh, Prabhat Patnaik | The Hindu | 14 May 2020

The Prime Minister has just announced Lockdown 4.0. Despite some resulting increase in economic activity, vast numbers of working people will remain without their regular incomes. He also announced a package of ₹20 lakh crore, but this includes already allocated money of ₹6-lakh crore and monetary policy directives to banks and non-banking financial companies. The announcements by the Finance Minister thus far involve no additional public spending, even though this is urgently required to revive the economy and prevent further contraction. Here we discuss what the government should do immediately in fiscal terms for reviving the economy and supporting livelihoods. Read More

Despite Laws, Deluge Of Hunger In India’s Capital

Harsh Mander | article14 | 12 May 2020

The young man, his face wrapped in a white handkerchief, was waiting his turn for the hot khichdi we were serving near an interstate bus terminus when he erupted. “The government is asking us to stay indoors, in our homes,” he raged (see video). “Does it expect us to break the walls and eat the pieces?” We met the young man at the Kashmere Gate, a normally teeming but now deserted bus terminus, in early April, two weeks into the world’s most-stringent lockdown, which began on 24 March 2020. As part of Karwan-e-Mohabbat, our effort to connect to those in need, our van was serving meals to those who were going hungry. Read More

Covid-19 Crisis Exposes India’s Neglect of Informal Workers

Jenny Sulfath and Balu Sunilraj | NewsClick | 12 May 2020

Several post-lockdown incidents have highlighted the plight of workers, who have been left to their own devices, without any state support, and forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to their homes. In the most recent episode, 16 migrants attempting to return home were run over by a train in Aurangabad. The common thread that connects them is their dependence on the informal economy. However, two other things cannot be overlooked. First, their life before the pandemic was relentlessly back-breaking. Second, the post-lockdown distress which workers in the informal economy are facing has to do with structural factors that define the sector Read More

Sanitation Workers: At the Bottom of the Frontline Against COVID-19?

Sagar Kumbhare | The Wire | 06 May 2020

A sanitation worker who was assigned to work in Dharavi recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus. He, inadvertently ended up passing it on to his wife who died on April 12. Like most other urban poor families in metropolitans like Mumbai, his family did not have adequate residential space that allowed for physical and social distancing. This case has raised concerns around the lives of the sanitation workers during the pandemic. And the “social distance” of class and caste has ensured that these concerns do not linger for long. Sanitation workers come under the essential services category. Read More

Harsh Mander: For India’s migrant workers, the prospect of life with dignity has become more remote

Harsh Mander | Scroll | 05 May 2020

From the midnight of March 2020, India went into what has been rated as the most stringent lockdowns of physical movement and economic activity in the world in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Three weeks later, a survey of 11,159 migrant workers by the Stranded Workers Action Network or SWAN, reported also by The Hindu, opened a troubling window to the intense distress of migrant workers stranded by the lockdown. The survey revealed an intense and urgent hunger crisis. Fifty per cent of the workers had rations left for less than one day. Seventy two per cent of the people the team spoke to said that their rations would finish in two days. Read More

Kashmir’s Migrant Workers Face yet Another Lockdown at the Start of a Work Season

Misbah Rashid | The Wire | 4 May 2020

Lockdowns are not a new phenomenon in the Kashmir Valley. Over the course of 12 years, Karimullah* and his sixteen co-workers have been visiting Kashmir in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Originally from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, he and his co-workers have been employed across Kashmir and have seen many a lockdown and curfew. But the COVID-19 induced lockdown has presented a fresh set of problems. Migrant labourers like him, in fact, are an integral part of the local economy of Jammu and Kashmir. They are mostly masons, carpenters, labourers, barbers, and embroiders and work even in gold ornament shops. The local economy rests on the shoulders of an estimated one million-strong migrant worker population that comes from the northern and eastern states of India, and Nepal. Read More

The Kafkaesque Process Underpinning Delhi’s Flawed E-Coupon Ration Scheme

Niyati Sharma | The Citizen | 04 May 2020

As India emerges from a strict nationwide lockdown, it’s clear that neither central nor state governments were able to assess or anticipate the panic that ensued across the country’s very-wide socio-economic spectrum. In Delhi, where the Aam Aadmi Party announced a lockdown prior to the national announcement, the decision translated into a dystopian demonstration of wealth inequality; those at the upper end of the spectrum rushed to stock up essential (and not-so-essential) goods so that they could stay at home for a month without inconveniences, and the ones at the lower end, suddenly and unexpectedly out of employment, did not know how to buy their next meal. Read More

COVID-19: Covid-19 Nightmarish Lockdown Dooars Tea Workers

Banojyotsana Lahiri | NewsClick | 03 May 2020

Right now, the inequalities of the world and the limitations of the healthcare systems are leaving their daunting footprints on ordinary people of various countries. The global outbreak of the deadly Novel Coronavirus has made everyone suddenly realise the need for investments in a better healthcare over all other expenditures, which now seem useless. And behind these scenes, a more frightening situation of starvation and hunger is sharply escalating. The pandemic of hunger might end up claiming more lives than the pandemic caused by the virus. In India, hunger had taken a pandemic proportion long back. In the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 2019, India ranked 102 among 117 countries. Read More

It’s time to recognise that government plans are oblivious to the realities of care workers

Madhurima Majumder | The Wire | 29 April 2020

In the last few days, disturbing news about care workers and doctors getting infected by COVID-19 have been reported from across India. On April 3, 50 medics had tested positive. The numbers have exponentially increased since most of them are working without basic protective gears. As of April 17, at least 600 medics in Delhi, 160 in Mumbai, 50 in Rajasthan have been affected. However, the real numbers are expected to be much higher. Moreover, these numbers don’t include primary health care professional like ASHA, ANM and Anganwadi workers on COVID-19 duty. Read More

COVID-19: Loss of Work, Lack of Support Push Thousands of Sex Workers to a Corner

Shirin Choudhary | NewsClick | 28 April 2020

“This work is a gamble… Some days you get more and some days you have to get by with nothing. That’s how it is. But now with the lockdown…One could die not of the disease but of hunger in this situation. That’s how it is with us these days.” This is the predicament of every daily wage worker in India. But these words weren’t spoken by a construction labourer, or a rickshaw puller, or a domestic worker. The speaker is *Sunita, a home-based sex worker living in Shakurpur in Delhi with her parents and her two daughters who know nothing of her work, just that she does a “job”. Read More

In Western Assam, a single mother struggles to put food on her family’s plate amid lockdown

Abdul Kalam Azad & Harsh Mander | Scroll | 26 April 2020

Marjina Begum is in her early 50s, but she thinks of herself as old. Her poor health has made her infirm, but the weight and urgency of her responsibilities keep her moving. She has worked as a domestic worker in Guwahati for 14 years to earn enough to raise and educate her daughter and look after her ailing mother. Marjina’s mother and daughter live in their village, a few km from Barpeta’s district headquarters in Western Assam. The name of the village will be withheld as her home is on government land. Read More

Shemsher Ali and sons: peeling the layers of struggle that define lockdown for one family

Balu Sunilraj, Suresh Garimella | Peoples Dispatch | 26 April 2020

The COVID-19 lockdown in India is in its fifth week. The Indian government, led by the far-right wing Bharatiya Janata Party, has come in for severe criticism for its handling of the lockdown, especially its neglect of migrant workers. Balu Sunilraj and Suresh Garimella, senior researchers at the Centre for Equity Studies, talked to some of these migrant workers on their situation before the lockdown, their struggles during this period and their concerns regarding the future. In the context of the migrant crisis and exodus during the stringent lockdown imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in India, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by noted social activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj in the Supreme Court. Read More

Shemsher Ali and sons: peeling the layers of struggle that define lockdown for one family

Sazid Ali and Anirban Bhattacharya | The Wire | 24 April 2020

As we go through phase two of the lockdown due to COVID-19, the sufferings of a large number of masses living under precarious conditions multiplies many folds. The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has exposed our society to a difficult present and an uncertain future. But like any crisis, it has also split open the existing fissures in our society. So, while the virus potentially can find a host in any one of us, it goes without saying that the crisis does not affect us all in the same manner. A host of pre-existing vulnerabilities and realities determine the depth of the crisis one faces. Read More

The Great Covid-19 Migrant Exodus: Miles separate government’s claims on relief from reality

Sazid Ali, Shirin Choudhary & Anirban Bhattacharya | Scroll | 23 April 2020

In response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj demanding that the government should order that all migrant workers to be paid their wages during the course of the lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Ministry of Home Affairs on April 7 maintained that the state was “discharging scrupulously” all its responsibilities. The government maintained that because of its relief package, “there was no necessity for migrant workers to rush to their villages”. Read More

The Lockdown has exacerbated issues faced by domestic workers

Mihika Chanchani | The Wire | 20 April 2020

Manish and his wife Rani (names changed) had been living and working in Abshot Layout, an extremely affluent area of Bangalore, as domestic workers for the past month and a half. Originally from Jharkhand’s Ghaghra village, Manish had been living and working in Hyderabad as a cook in the Apollo Hospital cafeteria for the past five years. Through a ‘broker’, he was able to find work in Bangalore at the home of a family he assumed was well-off. This, he said, was a better option for him as his wife could also live and work with him. Read More

India’s poor demand relief why are the middle-class silent?

Balu Sunilraj, Aashti Salman | NewsClick | 16 April 2020

Recent events have made the apathy of India’s middle class and its antagonism towards weaker sections starkly apparent. India’s sudden lockdown has now extended to beyond three weeks. Initially, it forced lakhs of migrant workers, who are usually extremely poor, to attempt walking home, many with their families. Many died during these long and arduous journeys. Many more lakhs could not return to their home towns, for public transport was abruptly halted soon after the lockdown. This has left people still stranded across the country, with no work and therefore no income. Read More

Displaced from Bengal, Left supporters reconnect with their party in Delhi

Balu Sunilraj, Suresh Garimella | NewsClick | 13 April 2020

The sudden 21-day countrywide lockdown announced by the Narendra Modi government on March 24 has brought life to a standstill for many. However, like any unplanned government action, the worst affected are the poor. Among the poor, migrant labourers who have absolutely no social-security nets and, therefore, completely dependent on pro-active state interventions or charity of non-state actors, are the worst affected. As social science scholars who are involved in a limited way to address some concerns of migrants due to lockdown. Read More

Strongmen keep Virus-Struck Nations on Edge

Balu Sunilraj, Aashti Salman | NewsClick | 05 April 2020

We are living in the age of strongmen who are using every opportunity to exhibit their machismo. Self-proclaimed 56-inch chests, men who crack sexist jokes—or step inside boxing rings—have captured imaginations. Many such men are now in power. Strongmen project machismo and the cult of personality. Yet they display intense cowardice, when they confront pressing social issues. They hide behind the rhetoric of hate then, which helps them conceal how much control they actually have. They divert attention from socio-economic issues to preserve the status quo in favour of the elites of our neo-liberal era. Read More

US Sanctions on Iran Amidst Corona Pandemic

Balu Sunilraj | NewsClick | 29 Mar 2020

In the middle of the Covid-19 epidemic, on 17 March, the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced fresh sanctions against Iran. He announced that nine entities based in China, Hong Kong , South Africa, as well as three Iranian individuals, would be blacklisted by the United States Department of State for trading in Iranian petrochemicals. It should be noted that these steps have been taken not only in the middle of a pandemic, but also at a juncture where universal solidarity has been expressed cutting across boundaries to fight the Novel Coronavirus scourge. Read More