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Coronavirus lockdown: if India treats its migrant workers like dirt, blame it on caste

South China Morning Post, India, 17 May 2020 - All governments like to make pious noises about the poor, democratically elected ones even more so. Even if they are run by elites with little genuine interest in the well-being of the unwashed, they at least put up a show of caring. It’s not just virtue-signalling, it’s survival. Which is what makes India’s handling of the coronavirus lockdown so baffling. The political leadership of the world’s biggest democracy these days doesn’t even pretend that it cares about the poor working class.

Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown at a notice of just four hours in late March, India has witnessed epic scenes of migrant workers fleeing the cities. As livelihoods vanished overnight, millions of casual wage earners have hitch-hiked and cycled, but mostly just walked hundreds of miles to get home, often in other states. Some collapsed on the way and died from the exhaustion. Many have been run over.

Last Friday, 16 migrant labourers were crushed to death by a goods train. They were walking along the tracks and had fallen asleep, exhausted, and had assumed that trains were not running because of the lockdown. On Thursday, eight migrants died when the truck they managed to hitch a ride on collided with a bus. There is no concrete figure of just how many have died so far fleeing hunger while their government says it is trying to protect them from a pandemic.

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Source: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3084650/coronavirus-lockdown-if-india-treats-its-migrant-workers-dirt

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