My maid and driver live on the border of Delhi-Faridabad, just adjoining Badarpur border. They last turned up at our house in Gulmohar Park on March 21. They have no food, no milk for children and no aid coming from anywhere to tide over this crisis.
Once the Prime Minister announced a nationwide ‘Janata Curfew’ for Sunday March 22, they naturally stayed at home.And before that ended, the NCR governments announced general lockdown till March 31. Then two days later the Prime Minister came again on national news networks to extend this lockdown to the entire country for 21 days from March 25.
Eight days later, they reported, some NGO volunteers come around 5 pm with some food packets and there is a mad rush among people to collect these packets. The packets are insufficient and the rest of the day, there is no food or milk even for children.
Both have some money in their bank accounts but the clampdown and non-availability of provisions have overnight turned them into starving beggars. Forget about maintaining any social distance in their rush to snatch a food packet or two for themselves and their children and elders, who cannot claw, clamber or stretch their hands too long to snatch packets in this everyday struggle.
We are not even talking here of the poor daily wagers and migrant labourers, who are walking back home to far off towns and villages in UP, MP, Bihar and Rajasthan from where the bulk of them come to work in Delhi.
One lockdown announcement after another has come with no forewarning or breathing time for the poor to fend for themselves. Experts say this could last as far as June. In sharp contrast, in South Africa, they gave three days’ grace period before enforcing the lockdown, and they took their citizens into confidence.
Police in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and even in Delhi are focussed on punishing people, basically the poor, who venture out to buy their daily needs of milk, food and soap. As for hygiene, water even in an upmarket Greenfield Colony’s Sector C is a precious rare commodity, while we keep harping on washing hands with soap 20 times a day.
Our maid and driver have five-six children between them and two-three old and infirm elders staying with them besides an equal number of able-bodied members living in that one building. Since Sunday, they have not been allowed to go out to fetch even milk.
We offered to transfer their salaries in advance to their bank accounts. Their accounts are in South Delhi, where they work.But they dismissed the offer as futile because they are not permitted to venture out to an ATM to draw money. Besides what will they do with the money if they cannot go out to make their purchases.
And for all the tall claims of aid coming from the Government,not a single item of use has been delivered to any of them at home. And they are at home, not on the street, unlike the poorermigrant workers.
Contrast this with Punjab, where policemen are seen buying vegetables and rations, delivering them at the doorstep of each jhuggi in slums.
BJP MLAs who go around directing the police to shoot at sight anyone found defying the lockdown, ought to take a lesson or two in generosity and community service from the Sikh community as a whole. They were there to feed the ShaheenBagh protestors against CAA/NPR/NRC; they rallied immediately to help out those affected by the North-East Delhi pogrom of Muslims by BJP brigade and now for Corona they are out to take food to anyone seeking their help. This is apart from the free langar which each Gurudwara runs 365 days a year all over the country and abroad.
Doctors are crying themselves hoarse that OPDs in all hospitals in Delhi be closed so that only those with emergency needs rush to the doctors. But so far, barring AIIMS, which is an autonomous institution, no orders have come from the Government in Delhi or the Centre to do so.
Among the big hospitals Safdarjung and Ram Manohar LohiaHospitals are run by the Centre, while the rest led by LNJP are under the administrative control of the Delhi government.
Finally, what about those fancy five-star private hospitals owned by corporate fat cats, who got land at throwaway prices from the Government on the assurance to serve the people? Why can’t the Governments force them to chip in free of cost to test and heal COVID-19 cases?