Saradindu Uddipan, TDN World: Streets, roads are deserted. No din and bustle to be found anymore. Those who come out for morning walk are confined in their home maintaining the lockdown order.Movement of vehicles are restricted. In early morning the usual picture of a busy road with rickshaw pullers, auto-rickshaws, vegetable sellers are disappeared now. Owing to fear of corona the house owners told their maids to discontinue their works. So, they are also not thronging on the streets.

On March 24, announcement of nationwide lockdown made, without any prior notification. And the worst affected of this decision are these marginalized class of the society. They have been inevitable part of the labour and production system in the country. Yet, due to existing class-system in the society they have been subject to endless oppression. They are the power wheel of the mills, factories, farms, construction and communications industries. But, in the time of trouble or crisis they are the one who are neglected at the earliest. In the ongoing lockdown the unorganized labors of the country such as the street-vendors, fruit-sellers, vegetable-sellers, rikshaw-puller, housemaids, drivers, helpers are the ones who are most affected people in the society. And eventually these laborers are the Adivasis, Dalits, Mulnivasis (aboriginals). After lockdown imposed on March 24, they have run out of work. Most of them are hit by hunger.

Thousands of Dalits, Adivasis live in dingy, claustrophobic ghettos in Kamarabad, Nayabad, Mukundpur, Kathipota, Goragacha,Patuli, Balia under the Sonarpu-Rajapur municipality corporation. They stay at shacks on chie rent. They are empty of work now due to lockdown. Most of them do not have ration cards. So they couldn’t get food.

A starving child in her mother’s lap awaiting for food. Rajpur-Sonarpur Municipality, Kolkata, ward no – 1. Picture- Saradindu Uddipan

On March 28, central government has issued a statement. As a part of disaster management, it has announced food, medicine, sanitizer, masks as essential commodities. And the centre has directed state governments to ensure allocation of these essential supplies among the underprivileged, from the slum dwellers in urban area to tribal people in jungle. Two weeks have passed since lockdown enforced yet no where in Bengal these essential services reached homes. Although, the government has enough stock to distribute six-months’ free ration among its people. And the state government has all the necessary infrastructure as well as human resources to send it at their door steps. With the help of Civic volunteers, ASHA workers, ICDS employees the essential foods can easily be distributed.

Those who have applied for digital ration card they were facilitated with coupon. But government could not do anything for the people without ration card. Hence, Hunger is engulfing people! Hungry children fall sleep crying. The elderly people are in more grievous situation. Plucking out wild grass, plants from hedges, marsh lands the women are boiling them in water and thus trying to feed their family members.

Man cleaning thrown away chiken skins before cooking meal and feed empty stomachs!
Rajpur-Sonarpur Municipality, Kolkata, ward no – 1. Picture- Saradindu Uddipan

Children, teenagers are collecting home thrown away skins of the chickens and giving it to their mothers to cook.

If the lockdown is extended for long time, famine would break out .These marginalized Dalit, Adivasi peole will die of hunger -their colonies in the suburbs will be wiped out.

(The writer is a leader of Jai Bhim Network and prominent Dalit intellectual.)