Whose Lives can be sacrificed for the Nation?

Arup Kumar Sen

In his speech declaring 21-day coronavirus-induced national lockdown on March 24, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “This is being done to save every citizen of the country”. He further stated: “No doubt we will have to pay a cost for this, but to save the life of every Indian is the priority for me, government of India, state governments, local government”. (The Hindu, March 24, 2020)

The migrant workers and daily-wage earners started paying a high price for the sake of the nation in the wake of the lockdown. They lost their livelihoods and were locked in the cities against their will. Many of them, with their families including children, made desperate attempts to return to their long-distance villages in other states for survival, and started walking without any provision of food and shelter during the journey. Reportedly, at least 17 migrant workers and their family members including five children lost their lives during their desperate journeys, by the end of March, 2020 (The Wire, March 30, 2020). We have come to know from a recent research-based report that by mid-May, 2020, at least 378 people had died due to the lockdown, for reasons other than the disease. The reasons for such non-coronavirus deaths include starvation, exhaustion and suicides, police brutality, road and rail accidents, and denial of medical care. The clear pattern that has emerged from the data collected by the researchers is that those dying live on the margins: “These are people of the working class. There are migrants and labourers”. (See The Wire, May 10, 2020)

The above reports bear testimony to the class dimensions of the national lockdown in India in terms of victimhood.

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Jun 3, 2020

Arup Kumar Sen

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