While many businesses in Europe are reopening, the situation in India is dramatically worsening. Although the infection rate is increasing daily, the virus is not the only threat to the population, hunger and desperation is increasing among the millions who can no longer work . Three months in lockdown has brought economic activity to a complete standstill.
A human tragedy has hit the millions of migrant workers who keep the Indian economy moving. Rural India has had to absorb some 23 million interstate and intrastate migrants, migrant workers fleeing the cities returning to their rural homes, often thousands of miles away. They travel on foot, on cattle trucks, or crowded together in the few trains. They die of hunger and accidents on the journey. Reports of tragic deaths are increasing and the hospitals are overflowing. A young pregnant woman died on the way to the hospital, not because of Corona, but because she was turned away in 6 different hospitals due to lack of space.
For the first time in over 170 years, the entire Indian train service has been completely shut down. Some emergency trains, filled with Indian passengers, often need more than double the time to reach their final destination sometimes taking over 80 hours. There is hardly any food available on the trains - and many people cannot get off the trains and take care of themselves in the stations, as the police rigorously crackdown on passengers by beating them with sticks to keep them on the trains.
Cyclone: 10 mio homeless
The strict lockdown in India makes it virtually impossible for the population to move out of their homes. The police are cracking down hard. People who venture out of the house without a permit are sent home by the police with sticks. Only those who have a permit, which must be applied for online, are allowed to leave the house. Nevertheless, COVID infections are increasing almost exponentially.
In Delhi, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu the infections are particularly high. Especially in the 18 million metropolia Mumbai, the world's largest slum Dharavi, the consequences of a larger spread are hardly imaginable. The infections double daily.
A few days ago a cyclone swept over north-east India, destroying and flooding houses and fields. Ten million people were left homeless overnight. The resulting lack of harvest will lead to a food shortage in the coming weeks and months. Farmers get into debt. Millions of people who were dependent on welfare systems such as MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) now receive nothing. The monsoon season will soon begin again, an additional challenge to the already scarce food supply.
Out of despair: Family sells own child for 50$
The Indian government is spending billions to meet the crisis, to provide food and a short-term financial bridge for the population, but the aid does not reach everywhere. All the more shocking is the fate of a 17-year-old girl from Madhya Pradesh in India who committed suicide due to hunger, that of the girl who was sold by her parents for 3000 Rupees out of desperation. The dark irony is that there should be no food shortages, but the transport has come to a complete standstill so there have been riots and robberies.
The future looks bleak for the tourism industry. Even before the COVID crisis, the fear of infection in countries like India has prevented many a tourist from visiting. Travel restrictions will affect states dependent on tourists. For Goa and Kerala, an entry ban for foreigners has been imposed, which will remain in force until December. Cities such as Kochi and Panjim have lost a large part of their income.
The solidarity among the population is great. Many of our partner organizations like KIDS or Charaka, which were themselves equally affected by the crisis, nevertheless distribute basic food to the needy and support with social projects.