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Re: India

Postby 0_0 » Thu Apr 23, 2020 5:16 pm

Though the lockdown in India is supposed to end on May 3, experts suggest the country might lose its momentum in the fight against coronavirus if restrictions are not extended further.

In an exclusive interview to India Today, Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of leading health journal “The Lancet”, warned that the minimum lockdown in India has to be 10 weeks, else all the good work achieved during this period will be lost and we would be in a situation far worse.


India, as of April 23 (8 am), had 21,393 cases with 681 deaths and a recovery rate of 20 per cent. The government is strategically testing people most prone to the virus.

India is under nationwide lockdown since March 25 that was supposed to end on April 14. However, owing to the adverse situation, the government extended the lockdown till May 3, by which time, India would complete 40 days of lockdown.

If Horton’s suggestion of a 10-week lockdown is considered, India would open up only in the first week of June. “I understand you have to resume economic activity but please don’t rush this... if you rush lifting the lockdown and if you have the second wave (of disease), it will be even worse than the first,” he had said. ... 2020-04-23 genocidal advice from editor-in-chief of leading health journal “The Lancet”, i bolded the most inane parts

Coronavirus has killed only around 700 Indians till now, a small number still compared to the 450,000 TB and 10,000-odd malaria deaths recorded every year.

Yet, panic has brought this nation of 1.3 billion to a virtual standstill in the wake of the global pandemic. This abrupt and total freezing of social and economic activity across the country has rudely uprooted at least 40 million lives. So much so that over 200 people had reportedly died already by April 13 trying to return home, awaiting food, or attempting to get to a hospital amidst the national lockdown.

There is only one word that describes the cause of these casualties: apathy.

As India completes a month under lockdown, it is unlikely that these deaths, unrelated to coronavirus as they are, will make it to public consciousness or the government’s consideration.

Quartz India, thus, attempts to briefly record at least a few of the lost lives behind those raw statistics.

Ranveer Singh, 39
A son, brother, husband, and father of three, Singh was among the millions of migrant workers oiling the lives of middle-class Delhi. Three years ago, when he found a job at a restaurant in the city, it did not upgrade his life dramatically. But it did earn him more than his meagre farm income back home in Morena in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

However, even that didn’t last.

As India shut down on March 25, his employer shut shop, making living in the big city simply unaffordable for him. Singh decided he’d be better off with his family in Morena.

On March 26, around 3am, he, along with several other migrant workers like him, began walking back home, some 325 kilometres southwards. Along the way, they battled intermittent rain, hunger, thirst, and the summer heat. Indian highways aren’t known for washroom facilities either. Sometimes Singh would get lucky and find a vehicle to hitchhike on, The Times of India newspaper reported.

Even then, he took two days to reach Agra, 200 km and usually a two-hour bus journey away from Delhi.

In Agra, Singh paused for rest on March 28, with roughly 80km more to go. He sat down before a local hardware store, fatigue getting the better of him. The store owner offered him some tea and biscuits and a small carpet to lie down on. But that hardly helped. “Lene aa sakte ho toh aa jaao (come and get me if you can),” he told his brother-in-law over a 42-second call, according to The Indian Express newspaper.

Shortly after, he suffered a cardiac arrest. Singh hadn’t contracted coronavirus. He died merely trying to reach his family in Morena.

Rakesh Musahar, 8
Millions of Indians, especially the poorest of them, depend on India’s leaky public distribution system for rice and wheat.

In Bihar, a mere 60km from the state’s capital Patna, one family of five didn’t have access to even that. Rakesh Musahar’s earnings as a ragpicker and his father Durga Prasad’s income as a porter—together a measly Rs250 ($3) a day—just about staved off hunger, according to The Wire. The lockdown wiped out even that bit.

When the little boy took ill on March 26, his parents had to knock on neighbours’ doors for funds to buy medicines. His last meal was probably on the night of March 24. “After that, we did not have any food cooked at our home. We would have surely cooked something if we had any ration,” Rakesh’s mother, Sonamati Devi, told The Wire.

On March 26, the young, overworked, and emaciated boy reportedly died of hunger.

No autopsy was done on the body and it was a challenge to even reach the crematorium. The local administration couldn’t care less.

Bala Subramani Logesh, 23
Indian students often travel miles across the sea to study. Most, however, can only afford marginally better off regions within the country. Logesh was one such from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

A native of a small town called Namakkal, Logesh was attending college in Wardha, some 1,300 kilometres to the north in the state of Maharashtra. He lived in a small accommodation with other migrant students and workers from Tamil Nadu.

When the lockdown began, Logesh and his roommates decided to wait it out. “However, five days later, things did not improve for us,” Rahul Dravid, an acquaintance of Logesh’s, later told The News Minute.

On March 29, they decided to walk back home instead of starving. In three days, they covered 500 kilometres, stopping along the way at shelters and helped by volunteers. Sometimes, trucks gave them a lift, at other times the police.

On April 1, they reached a government shelter in Secunderabad, Telangana. Home was still 800km away, but he could take no more. Logesh collapsed in a dining hall after having food, according to The Times of India newspaper. A medical examination said he’d suffered a cardiac arrest. His companions said Logesh had no illnesses or underlying medical conditions.

His body arrived at his Namakkal home two days later. His companions reached theirs on April 4.

Some journeys do change lives.

Jamlo Makdam, 12
At 12, Indian children are usually in the last year of middle-school. The whole wave of high-school drama and teenage hormones is yet to come. But an alternate reality awaits the millions sucked into the labour force instead.

Makdam belonged to the latter group.

She had been working on a chilli field in Kannaiguda village in Telangana for the past two months, according to The Indian Express newspaper. She had already braved three weeks of the lockdown, which was initially supposed to end on April 14. But when prime minister Narendra Modi announced an extension till May 3, she was left with no other option.

Living on the margins of society, her community, the Makdams, has little or no access to proper healthcare or education. The only child of her parents Andoram and Sukamati, she had joined some women and other children from her village for seasonal work.

In India, children under the age of 15 are not allowed to work. But her group had at least three other children.

Their trek back involved crossing hills and forests, under the oppressive 40 degrees celsius heat. On April 18, Makdam died, collapsing due to a possible electrolyte imbalance just 30 kilometres from her home.

In all likelihood, she was already malnourished. It hardly matters anymore. ... -lockdown/
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Re: India

Postby Elvis » Wed May 06, 2020 6:37 pm

From my American correspondent in Mumbai:

Sun, May 3, 2020

Outside, below our terrace, from 8:00am there is a line of men, beginning at the left before as far as we can see, and going up a hill under trees beyond our vision. They are wage earners waiting to move forward to get papers allowing them to take a train home. The line was there yesterday; today there were chalk-marked circles 6 feet apart to keep everyone 'safe.' At 5:50pm the line dissolved. No more permissions today. But the line will be back tomorrow.

There were still three cops with lathis at the three-way intersection for awhile. A small crowd remains. Very few of the men wear masks. The chalk circles are empty.

Abhilash goes out for veggies once in awhile. Everything else comes to our door.

I understand that the [WA state] weed shops are still open. That's all I miss from "home."

lathi - club consisting of a heavy stick (often bamboo) bound with iron; used by police in India.
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Re: India

Postby Elvis » Mon May 18, 2020 12:40 am

More missive from our American man in Mumbai

May 16, 2020

I'm fine, very busy, completing the last two installments of [a series of articles]. The last one must be done by 25 June.

I've applied to extend my current 180 days in India, finishing on May 26, by another 180, but haven't heard back. But how can they kick me out now? If they do say No, will I end up in jail again?

Mumbai is now a hotspot. I've not been out of our apartment for 6 weeks. Abhilash orders raw food from Amazon. He is much more frustrated than I. His family, in Dhanbad, to the north, keeps phoning him to come home. But if he did, it would take two days in a private car with a driver, and two weeks of quarantine when he got there. He just spent a half-hour explaining his stress to me. Last night, he even got angry at his kittens.

Here's a photo from our front window, which is all I see, except for an occasional neighbour from my rear bathroom window. One guy has a blue light on at night. Hmmmm.

mumbai window 2020.jpg

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Re: India

Postby Joe Hillshoist » Mon May 18, 2020 5:21 am

The coronavirus slayer! How Kerala's rock star health minister helped save it from Covid-19

n 20 January, KK Shailaja phoned one of her medically trained deputies. She had read online about a dangerous new virus spreading in China. “Will it come to us?” she asked. “Definitely, Madam,” he replied. And so the health minister of the Indian state of Kerala began her preparations.

Four months later, Kerala has reported only 524 cases of Covid-19, four deaths and – according to Shailaja – no community transmission. The state has a population of about 35 million and a GDP per capita of only £2,200. By contrast, the UK (double the population, GDP per capita of £33,100) has reported more than 40,000 deaths, while the US (10 times the population, GDP per capita of £51,000) has reported more than 82,000 deaths; both countries have rampant community transmission.

As such, Shailaja Teacher, as the 63-year-old minister is affectionately known, has attracted some new nicknames in recent weeks – Coronavirus Slayer and Rockstar Health Minister among them. The names sit oddly with the merry, bespectacled former secondary school science teacher, but they reflect the widespread admiration she has drawn for demonstrating that effective disease containment is possible not only in a democracy, but in a poor one.

How has this been achieved? Three days after reading about the new virus in China, and before Kerala had its first case of Covid-19, Shailaja held the first meeting of her rapid response team. The next day, 24 January, the team set up a control room and instructed the medical officers in Kerala’s 14 districts to do the same at their level. By the time the first case arrived, on 27 January, via a plane from Wuhan, the state had already adopted the World Health Organization’s protocol of test, trace, isolate and support.

As the passengers filed off the Chinese flight, they had their temperatures checked. Three who were found to be running a fever were isolated in a nearby hospital. The remaining passengers were placed in home quarantine – sent there with information pamphlets about Covid-19 that had already been printed in the local language, Malayalam. The hospitalised patients tested positive for Covid-19, but the disease had been contained. “The first part was a victory,” says Shailaja. “But the virus continued to spread beyond China and soon it was everywhere.”

In late February, encountering one of Shailaja’s surveillance teams at the airport, a Malayali family returning from Venice was evasive about its travel history and went home without submitting to the now-standard controls. By the time medical personnel detected a case of Covid-19 and traced it back to them, their contacts were in the hundreds. Contact tracers tracked them all down, with the help of advertisements and social media, and they were placed in quarantine. Six developed Covid-19.

Another cluster had been contained, but by now large numbers of overseas workers were heading home to Kerala from infected Gulf states, some of them carrying the virus. On 23 March, all flights into the state’s four international airports were stopped. Two days later, India entered a nationwide lockdown.

Kerala quarantine
Indian citizens arriving from the Gulf states are bussed to a quarantine centre. Photograph: Arunchandra Bose/AFP via Getty Images
At the height of the virus in Kerala, 170,000 people were quarantined and placed under strict surveillance by visiting health workers, with those who lacked an inside bathroom housed in improvised isolation units at the state government’s expense. That number has shrunk to 21,000. “We have also been accommodating and feeding 150,000 migrant workers from neighbouring states who were trapped here by the lockdown,” she says. “We fed them properly – three meals a day for six weeks.” Those workers are now being sent home on charter trains.

Shailaja was already a celebrity of sorts in India before Covid-19. Last year, a movie called Virus was released, inspired by her handling of an outbreak of an even deadlier viral disease, Nipah, in 2018. (She found the character who played her a little too worried-looking; in reality, she has said, she couldn’t afford to show fear.) She was praised not only for her proactive response, but also for visiting the village at the centre of the outbreak.

The villagers were terrified and ready to flee, because they did not understand how the disease was spreading. “I rushed there with my doctors, we organised a meeting in the panchayat [village council] office and I explained that there was no need to leave, because the virus could only spread through direct contact,” she says. “If you kept at least a metre from a coughing person, it couldn’t travel. When we explained that, they became calm – and stayed.”

Nipah prepared Shailaja for Covid-19, she says, because it taught her that a highly contagious disease for which there is no treatment or vaccine should be taken seriously. In a way, though, she had been preparing for both outbreaks all her life.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), of which she is a member, has been prominent in Kerala’s governments since 1957, the year after her birth. (It was part of the Communist Party of India until 1964, when it broke away.) Born into a family of activists and freedom fighters – her grandmother campaigned against untouchability – she watched the so-called “Kerala model” be assembled from the ground up; when we speak, this is what she wants to talk about.

The foundations of the model are land reform – enacted via legislation that capped how much land a family could own and increased land ownership among tenant farmers – a decentralised public health system and investment in public education. Every village has a primary health centre and there are hospitals at each level of its administration, as well as 10 medical colleges.

This is true of other states, too, says MP Cariappa, a public health expert based in Pune, Maharashtra state, but nowhere else are people so invested in their primary health system. Kerala enjoys the highest life expectancy and the lowest infant mortality of any state in India; it is also the most literate state. “With widespread access to education, there is a definite understanding of health being important to the wellbeing of people,” says Cariappa.

Shailaja says: “I heard about those struggles – the agricultural movement and the freedom fight – from my grandma. She was a very good storyteller.” Although emergency measures such as the lockdown are the preserve of the national government, each Indian state sets its own health policy. If the Kerala model had not been in place, she insists, her government’s response to Covid-19 would not have been possible.

That said, the state’s primary health centres had started to show signs of age. When Shailaja’s party came to power in 2016, it undertook a modernisation programme. One pre-pandemic innovation was to create clinics and a registry for respiratory disease – a big problem in India. “That meant we could spot conversion to Covid-19 and look out for community transmission,” Shailaja says. “It helped us very much.”

When the outbreak started, each district was asked to dedicate two hospitals to Covid-19, while each medical college set aside 500 beds. Separate entrances and exits were designated. Diagnostic tests were in short supply, especially after the disease reached wealthier western countries, so they were reserved for patients with symptoms and their close contacts, as well as for random sampling of asymptomatic people and those in the most exposed groups: health workers, police and volunteers.

Shailaja says a test in Kerala produces a result within 48 hours. “In the Gulf, as in the US and UK – all technologically fit countries – they are having to wait seven days,” she says. “What is happening there?” She doesn’t want to judge, she says, but she has been mystified by the large death tolls in those countries: “I think testing is very important – also quarantining and hospital surveillance – and people in those countries are not getting that.” She knows, because Malayalis living in those countries have phoned her to say so.

Places of worship were closed under the rules of lockdown, resulting in protests in some Indian states, but resistance has been noticeably absent in Kerala – in part, perhaps, because its chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, consulted with local faith leaders about the closures. Shailaja says Kerala’s high literacy level is another factor: “People understand why they must stay at home. You can explain it to them.”

The Indian government plans to lift the lockdown on 17 May (the date has been extended twice). After that, she predicts, there will be a huge influx of Malayalis to Kerala from the heavily infected Gulf region. “It will be a great challenge, but we are preparing for it,” she says. There are plans A, B and C, with plan C – the worst-case scenario – involving the requisitioning of hotels, hostels and conference centres to provide 165,000 beds. If they need more than 5,000 ventilators, they will struggle – although more are on order – but the real limiting factor will be manpower, especially when it comes to contact tracing. “We are training up schoolteachers,” Shailaja says.

Once the second wave has passed – if, indeed, there is a second wave – these teachers will return to schools. She hopes to do the same, eventually, because her ministerial term will finish with the state elections a year from now. Since she does not think the threat of Covid-19 will subside any time soon, what secret would she like to pass on to her successor? She laughs her infectious laugh, because the secret is no secret: “Proper planning.”

• This article was amended on 14 May 2020 to correct the figure for the UK’s GDP per capita. It was originally given as £40,400, but this is the figure in US dollars. ... m-covid-19

I know it's not the trendy new off guardian but it's interesting none the less.
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Re: India

Postby JackRiddler » Sun May 24, 2020 10:03 am


Horrific conditions prevalent and most of them not because of the contagion.

“Diarrhea, Dehydration, Hunger, Exhaustion”: India’s Rural Poor Suffer Most Under Lockdown
MAY 22, 2020 ... neoliberal

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to India, which is starting to loosen its nationwide lockdown and just saw its biggest spike in coronavirus cases in 24 hours with 6,000 new reported infections. India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has reported more than 118,000 confirmed cases, more than 3,500 deaths. This comes as the most powerful cyclone to strike eastern India and Bangladesh in over a decade killed at least 82 people this week, forced an estimated 3 million people to leave their homes to seek shelter.

Meanwhile, a nationwide strike is underway today by many of India’s trade unions against the suspension of labor laws. Since the lockdown began in March, tens of thousands of migrant workers have been left jobless, face dangerous journeys to return home to smaller villages across India, most of them by foot. Hundreds have already lost their lives en route home. This is a migrant worker.

MIGRANT WORKER: [translated] Our employers threatened us when we went to ask for help. They said, “Do whatever you like. We don’t care.” Our families are really worried. They’ve been calling us over and over for days. We don’t have any food or water here. On the contrary, we are being beaten when we ask for it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Mumbai, India, where we’re joined by the award-winning Indian journalist P. Sainath. He’s the founder of People’s Archive of Rural India, or PARI, which focuses on rural India, where more than 833 million people live, speaking 780 living languages. But first, I want to play part of an interview by PARI with 11-year-old Paras Madikar. After the lockdown, his father lost his job as a driver, and the boy began selling vegetables to help his family make money.

PARAS MADIKAR: [translated] At 5:30 every morning, I go and get whatever vegetables I can find. And then I have to sell it. Those who want to buy, they buy it. Many people buy vegetables. Many don’t. I get very little time to study. I find little time in the morning. In the afternoon, after eating lunch, I again study for some time. I like going to school very much. My neck is hurting.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s an interview by PARI, the People’s Archive of Rural India.

For more, we’re joined by its founder, journalist P. Sainath. He’s also author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s so important to have you with us, Sainath, such an honor.

P. SAINATH: My pleasure. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk — start off by talking about this boy, and even the founding of your archive, the kind of journalism you’re doing now? You were a well-known, major journalist, a mainstream journalist, but you felt that the people on the ground, the majority of India, were not being covered, their voices not heard.

P. SAINATH: Well, the average Indian national daily gives 0.67% of its front page for news of rural origin, where 69% of the population live. So, obviously — there is not a single newspaper, not a single national newspaper, not a single TV channel that has a national-level rural affairs editor or correspondent full-time, nor is there a full-time correspondent on the farming beat, nor is there a full-time correspondent on the labor beat. So, obviously, that gap is very huge. And we try filling it.

But I’d like to answer your thing about the boy, Paras Madikar. He was at school. He had never been a child laborer before. When they shut down the school, his father lost his job. His mother lost her job. Amy, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, India lost 122 million jobs in the single month of April — OK? — at an unemployment rate of 27.1%, now down to 24%, 25% — 122 million jobs. And those were nonfarm-sector jobs, like his father, who was a watchman, a Chowkidar, a security guard in a building; like his mother, who was a cook in a canteen. All these jobs went. Ninety-one-point-three million of those jobs — mind you, the 122 million jobs is three times what you’ve lost in the United States. The 91.3 million were people who were small vendors, hawkers, tiny little stores, mom-and-pop stores, whatever. These are the ones that have got out. Many of those jobs are not coming back. Paras Madikar, that boy, he is one of those children who was thrown onto the streets to earn something, because his school shut down, and you don’t get the midday meal anymore. Right?

But it’s also very important for you to look at the large picture of what’s happening to these migrants. And it’s not just the migrants who are in trouble. You know, I think that COVID-19 has presented us — and, I think, much of the world — with a complete and total autopsy of the corpse of neoliberal policy of 28 years in India. Yeah. I think it’s done the same elsewhere for other countries. We now know how fragile large sections of the population are, after all the boasting about 8% growth and 9% growth and stuff. Yeah?

There are, I mean — and it also gives us a pretty good brain scan of neoliberal thinking. On last Sunday, the government of India passed an order. You saw that long march of the migrants, right? The government of India passed an order for a nationwide curfew between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. You know what that does to the migrants on the highway, the millions of people on the highway? Yeah? It means that they can only now march hundreds, thousands, I mean, anywhere — they’re marching anywhere between 300 and 1,000 miles, Amy. And these people now can only march between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in temperatures ranging — you know, in temperatures ranging from 103 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s what the marchers are now — the people on the highways are now doing. Imagine that kind of thinking. Imagine the kind of — and that is neoliberal thinking. It makes rules to protect the beautiful people, and it has no part for the marginalized.

Look at how it’s thinking on hunger. We have not, in living memory, seen this kind of immediate, urgent hunger on the streets as has been happening here. This country is sitting on what the government says is 77 million tons of surplus food grain. I don’t call — I don’t use the word “surplus”; I think that’s a fraud. But it has 77 million tons of buffer stock. You know what it’s doing with that stock? It’s given permission — the government has issued permission last month to convert large portions of rice — I don’t know how many million tons — into ethanol, so that you can create large quantities of hand sanitizer. OK? You’re destroying food grain to create hand sanitizer, which also involves large-scale use of water. Yeah? And, of course, that ethanol will also go to blend petrol for fuel. I mean, this is the level of thinking when people are so hungry, when people are actually on the edge of starvation. We now know, after 28 years of this path of development, how narrow is the distance, how minimal the distance, between insecurity and hunger, and hunger and starvation.

The other thing they’ve done — oh, what’s the great thing that the states have done in response to this hunger and chaos and marches? We have reopened. You know what’s one of the first things to reopen, even before the so-called relaxation of the lockdown? Thousands and thousands of liquor shops. Maybe, you know, we’re being advised that you go on a liquid diet. I don’t know. But you have opened thousands of liquor shops. And the queues for those can be up to two kilometers, making a mockery of all the physical distancing stuff. But this is the way we are thinking. This is the way we are behaving. So, it’s really — I mean, you’ve lost 122 million jobs. People are terribly hungry. You have 77 million tons of grain piled up, and you’re thinking of creating ethanol from it. So, we really are — the migrants and others also are in a terrible, terrible state.

I also want to say that it’s not just the migrants. OK? See, we, in the People’s Archive of Rural India, we didn’t discover labor migrants on March 26th after the lockdown, like the rest of the corporate media did. We cover them 365 days a year. OK? We know who they are. We know them personally. As you said when you were introducing the subject, that — you know, you got a guy to say that “We are being beaten. We are running out of water. We are running out of food.” Amy, those — earlier, when migrants walked — they did walk long distances, even earlier, to go home — they would have tea stalls, little bus stands and stuff along the way, where they would stop, work for the evening, earn their way to the next 40, 50 kilometers, earn their way to the next 60 kilometers, to the next bus stand, where they would work in a tea stall. All those tea stalls and restaurants on the highway are now closed under the lockdown. So you’re going to have a lot of deaths from non-COVID ailments, old Indian friends like diarrhea, dehydration, hunger, exhaustion. These sort of things are happening.

You know, let me give you one example. One example, the case of young Jamlo, a 12-year-old girl, Indigenous person, who had gone with a party of people from her village — not her parents, but with others — to work in the chili fields, in the red chili fields of the neighboring state of Telangana. When the lockdown came and everyone was thrown off their jobs and their work, Jamlo walked 140 kilometers. A 12-year-old girl, she walked 140 kilometers in three days. I spend a hell of a lot of my time walking about the countryside. I’ve never done 140 kilometers in three days and nights. And she fell dead 60 kilometers from her home, in exhaustion and from muscle fatigue. OK? How many Jamlos have we now condemned the migrants to, when we bring in a curfew that says you can only, individuals — movement of individuals is strictly forbidden between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.? How many more Jamlos are we pushing over the edge? The entire process of what’s going on is so utterly barbarous and, you know, shows what we have made of people.

Do you know — let me tell you a little aside about the 77 million tons of food. Do you know how much that is, Amy, in the kind of bags we pack it? If economists, like Jean Drèze, calculated 15 years ago — because we’ve had that surplus for more than 15, 20 years — that if the 77 million tons of food grain, if the sacks were laid in a row, you could reach the moon and back twice. It’s twice the distance to the moon. So you could go and come back, and you would still have some more grain left over. Yeah? You could easily, if you chose, meet the people’s hunger. You could do that. No, but the food distribution system under neoliberalism has not functioned — the stocks have not functioned to keep prices low. They are functioning to keep prices up.


P. SAINATH: You have — yeah? Please.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what this means right now for India today. And also, if you can talk about the — you can talk about the prejudice, the racism being expressed, trying to use the pandemic against Muslims in India and against Chinese Indians?

P. SAINATH: Yeah. Well, it’s not just Chinese Indians, but all people from the northeast who look Chinese to, you know, so-called mainstream India. But two things have been happening. I do understand that there has been racism, that there has been sectarian propaganda in many parts of the world, not the least in the United States, where you had the great “kung flu,” right?

But I do not believe anywhere else it’s at this level of communal, sectarian prejudice, where television channels don’t cover the coronavirus, but cover said suspected Islamic conspiracies that planted it here, because there was an event by a small fundamentalist group, a religious gathering in Delhi, which turned out to be a super spreader. But there were many other events by other religions and other groups, etc., but this was an identified one. And there are millions of people receiving WhatsApp messages in multiple languages telling them — you know, say, quoting a district judge — of course, a retired district judge, who can’t be traced — and there seem to be so many of them, because they seem to be in all languages — about how this whole thing was planned by Islamic groups to devastate India, Hindu India. OK? That’s one.

Second, fishermen in the east coast — and I want to make this point to your audience, Amy. Today we are listening about the migrants. There are millions of relatives of those migrants back in the villages they’re going. They are no less devastated. Yeah, the migrants are having it physically worse. But millions of livelihoods across the country were smashed by the way we organized and implemented our lockdown. Fishermen in the east coast of Andhra Pradesh, my home state, they are — you know, there is, anyway, a fishing ban between April 15 and June 14 to conserve fish stock, because that’s the breeding season for the fish, now, which means that the two weeks preceding that are the heaviest fishing period. OK? Those couldn’t happen because of the lockdown. And then, when the poor fishermen steal out at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. in the morning, at the risk of their lives, and bring back a few fish to eat, they’re not able to sell the rest. Either they sell it at one-fourth the price, or they’re told by customers, “Hey, we have seen on WhatsApp that these fish are from the east. They’re from China. And they’ve got — they’re carrying the coronavirus.” OK? I mean, it is funny, but it is so bloody widely accepted.

AMY GOODMAN: Sainath, we only have a minute, and I wanted to go to your comment that COVID-19 presents us with a complete and thorough autopsy of 28 years of neoliberalism in India. Your final comment?

P. SAINATH: Yeah. Well, one, as I said, it’s shown us what these policies on food — it’s like, for instance, for 35 years, we’ve all accepted — right? — that healthcare is something to be bought, sold, traded, and that health insurance equals health. This is neoliberalism. We have a country where the maximum amount of the health system is in private hands — I mean, where the maximum expenditure on health is from poor people, from their own pockets. That’s one, on the health.

On the education system, now what happens — all the rich schools and the colleges and private universities will switch to “online education.” What happens to the tens of millions of children? What happens to the tens of millions of children in government schools where you’re lucky to have a decent blackboard? What happens to that? So the education system is smashed. This was also the pushing of so-called affordable private schools. All this stuff came with neoliberalism. So we’ve been smashed on the hunger front, on the education front, on the health front.

And we now face a very serious crisis in the coming monsoon crop season, because after 25 years we promoted, like anything, cash crop for exports. If we repeat cash crops in the coming season, you’re going to have starvation, right? Because worldwide, as you know, income and consumption growth — income and consumption growth have crashed. Nobody is going to have huge orders of sugarcane and cotton. That’s not going to happen. Even the previous season’s stocks are piling up. I have been — we are desperate in People’s Archive of Rural India, appealing to farmers, “Grow only food crop, or you and your families are in very serious trouble.” So, that’s with farmers and laborers.

Each and every node of neoliberalism is now standing naked. Many of these things happened earlier, OK?

AMY GOODMAN: We have 20 seconds.

P. SAINATH: They were not brought on by the coronavirus. Yeah. They were not brought on by the coronavirus. They were brought on by conscious policy that this is how we should build a society. So, these things existed earlier, but now we can’t turn away from them. We can’t pretend we don’t see.

AMY GOODMAN: P. Sainath, we want to thank you so much for being with us, award-winning Indian journalist and founder of People’s Archive of Rural India. We thank you for being there. We’re going to link to your online website, and we hope to have you back very soon. The largest lockdown in world history is taking place right now in India.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Mike Davis. Stay with us.

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Re: India

Postby Elvis » Sun May 24, 2020 9:18 pm

Continuing notes from my 82-year-old American friend currently staying in India, here's the latest, in which he replies to a third party about the other (American) fellow's situation and travel plans:

Sun, May 24, 2020

Thank you very much. But I'm not phoning you from our apartment in Mumbai. Even though we've been holed up in it since early March.

Actually, your trip sounds incredible. Buses running outside cities? No quarantine for two weeks after any travel whatsoever? Internal flights? Flights may become available today, but there's still disagreement between states on that.

Perhaps you know, more than 3,000,000 daily wage earners have left Mumbai for their villages, many on foot, some dying on the way. There are special trains and buses for some, but not enough. Some of the buses are turned back at state borders, particularly U.P. From there it's on foot again.

Outside our sixth story window for days there was a line stretching to infinity (well, further than we could see) of these workers waiting to get permission papers to leave. There are white chalk circles on the road to keep them six feet apart. Today many of them are back with their wives and luggage, waiting for that transport. It's 3 P.M. The crowd is growing. A bus will come. Out of at least 50 people, it will take about 15.

I received an email a couple of days go from a French woman who is stuck in China. There, foreigners are under scrutiny for possibly bringing COVID-19 back into the country. "I and a friend were at a bar," she wrote, "and two policemen come up to us to check if our passports were in order. How annoying!"

I answered, "We've been holed up in our apartment since early March. I'd love to be in a bar and have someone ask to see my passport."

She answered, "Thank you for putting this in perspective."

Good luck on your trip. Stay safe. For me, this wouldn't be the time to go. Your trip sounds hardly possible to me.


P.S. it's an hour later. The crowd is now at least 80, still stretching to infinity
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