Lately, the Australian Indian Institute has published an article where it has slated the pan- India lockdown announced by the Indian government to counter the further spread of Coronavirus. A futile attempt has been made to ridicule the relief measures announced by the Central and the State Governments of India. The article has stated that the food aid provide by the government to the informal sector “feels like a joke”. However, the article appears to be very narrow-sighted and biased as the ground realities have not been taken into account by the writers.
Despite being the world’s second-most populous country, India has reported less number of cases as compared to other nations. The rapid action taken by the Indian Government is one of the prime reasons behind these ‘not so grim’ statistics. Both central and state governments have devised various relief schemes to ensure proper food and shelter facilities to the poor along with financial assistance.
Taking into consideration that the people who are part of the agricultural sector, low-income groups and unorganised sectors will be worst impacted by the lockdown, the Central Government announced Rs 1.7 lakh crore ($23 billion) financial package for them. The package also includes a 3 month free supply of food grains, pulses and cooking gas in order to support them from the economic vagaries. Furthermore, the Centre has front-loaded an advance instalment of Rs. 2000 which would be benefitting over 8.7 crore farmers.
In addition to the Centre’s endeavours, the State leaderships have also shown exemplary efforts to negate the detrimental effect of the ongoing health crisis. The Uttar Pradesh government is not just providing Rs 1000 to the poor and the daily wage labourers but has made arrangements to provide one moth stock of food grains for free. The people who do not fall in any of the state schemes and their livelihood have been affected due to the pandemic will also be provided with food and money by the designated rural and urban authorities. Reusable masks will also be distributed to the poor for free by the government. The Delhi government has been feeding almost 4 lakh marginalized people in the Union Territory. Additionally, they have converted the government schools and stadiums into temporary shelter homes for the homeless and migrant workers. In Maharashtra, the government has set up relief camps to provide shelter and food to the homeless.
The real strength of India lies in its people. The world’s largest lockdown is conscientiously being followed by the majority of the people. They have not just shown commendable patience and cooperation but many individuals and voluntary organisations have come forward to help the nation overcome this health crisis. Delhi-headquartered ‘Goonj’ has initiated ‘Rahat Covid-19’ programme to ensure comprehensive family kits of essentials, including dry ration and personal care material to two lakh areas known for migration.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation, in close coordination with State Governments and District Administration, has stepped in to provide relief by providing food to thousands of people across the country. It has begun its relief service by providing a meal or dry ration support to people in Rajasthan, Gujarat, NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Sewa Bharti is feeding 75,000 people of Delhi on a daily basis. The volunteers are also collaborating with temple trusts in the national capital where hundreds and thousands of meals are served each day. The Karma Foundation conducted a mega food distribution camp at Ahmadabad distributing approximately 42000 food packets to indigents. The foundation has also been feeding stray animals.
It is pertinent to note that when the most of the world leaders are occupied in tackling the domestic problems, India has not only evacuated its citizens stranded in other affected countries but also has evacuated citizens of other countries. PM Modi became the first global leader to call for a collective international effort to combat the health crisis.
It cannot be denied that emergency situations demand stern measures. Undoubtedly, a mass lock down in any given circumstance will have an adverse effect on the lives of the common people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself acknowledged the hardships being faced the citizens and sought an apology for taking the ‘difficult decision’. He has been constantly interacting with the doctors and health workers from various parts of the country not just to take first-hand feedback but also to encourage and thank them for their selfless service towards the nation. Even in these stark times, the PM has been able to give a sense of national purpose to the people by bringing everyone together for ‘janta curfew’ and lightening diyas and candles.
Regardless of all the criticism at both domestic and international level, the Indian leadership is grading up its policies amidst all the resource constraints and population pressure. The government has also been successful to a great extent in providing reassurance to the people and keeping the panic at minimal. Innovation, community support and coordination at all levels of government along with the unity and determination of the people will soon pave the way for a corona free India.
It is unfortunate that rather than taking note of all these efforts by multiple Indian agencies central government, state governments, local bodies, NGOs and people at individual levels, Australia-India Institute published this article authored by arm-chair analysts who are far away from ground realities.
(The article has been co-authored by Tanya Tyagi)