While some stockpile and battle over toilet paper…what happens when a total lockdown hits India.
Strict new rules or ‘draconian’ regulations as some describe curbs life in the UK to help tackle the spread of coronavirus. With over 80,000 cases reported in mainland China, as the pandemic reaches the borders of many nations, the number of cases outside China now exceed that figure with more than 425,000 affected in over 150 countries worldwide. Sweeping ‘lockdown’ regulations dominate and are now being echoed right across the world.
As of March 24th, India, with a population of 1.3billion joins the list of countries under lockdown. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has imposed a nationwide lockdown which will be enforced for 21 days following a sharp increase in confirmed cases to 519. Although cities including Delhi and Mumbai have already been under strict restrictions, this recent move extends to every corner of the country. Modi suggests what many world leaders endorse that ‘social distancing is the only option to combat coronavirus’. As well as ‘social distancing’, other key words such as ‘social isolation’ and ‘hygiene’ are other words making the rounds. While many are trying to protect themselves from this virus, an uncomfortable truth is unfolding that not everyone can, especially for the poor, vulnerable and marginalised representing 176 million living in extreme poverty according to an recent Oxfam report.
As the pandemic takes precedence, many uncomfortable truths are starting to resurface. Through my own research and fieldwork working in remote regions in Gujarat, a northwest state in India, many of these communities I visited in these regions will be at the greatest risk of contracting the virus. The burdens of the pandemic will be pushed disproportionately on an already polarised nation created not just through wealth but also through the social structure on a daily basis. These challenges are compounded further by the housing arrangements, little access to sanitation and drinking water facilities, poor access to health centres as well as poor access to knowledge and information.
In reality, the concept of ‘social distancing’ as a measure to curb the pandemic may not be recognised in rural communities where social distancing is not an option. The reality for nomadic communities, the poor or even those living in slums where many are huddled together in overcrowded homes and huts as well as communities with little understanding of the importance of hygiene and washing hands transmission rates of the virus will peak. This dystopian outlook is a potentially true for the nomadic community I supported in 2019. Not only do these communities have no protective measures including access to running water and soap, literacy levels are low and access to knowledge from technology in the form of smart phones is non-existent.
While the coronavirus continues to evoke much despair, many nations around the world are taking many necessary restrictions, however, speculations will continue for each nation, not only on how they react but the aftermath and possibly for those who remain voiceless.
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