Opinion : There will be no time to rewrite history

Migrant workers head home from New Delhi after the national Lockdown took effect. Image credit : NPR

By Ananya S Guha

The Corona virus has caused collateral damage as seen in the tragic plight of migrant workers. When the lockdown was announced in haste the government and the policy makers did not think of India’s poor. All they did was keeping the wealthy and white collared job holders in mind which is the very antithesis of a policy which goes against the interests of India’s millions of people, who struggle to meet two ends in a day. Estimates say this reverse migration is the second largest human exodus after the partition of India. Both the central and state governments are mute spectators to this tragedy unfolding before our very eyes everyday.
Children losing their parents in accidents, a pregnant woman lying in the bus terminal and many many more are images which should haunt the conscience of a nation but is there a conscience ? When a disconsolate woman is weeping and saying she has been without food and water for days, where are our political leaders who glamourise the country before an international audience? Where are they or are they busy squabbling among themselves and in the same breath saying that they are burning political differences to fight the maelstrom that Covid 19 is causing. But isn’t this a fall out of this malaise? Why are they silent, are they penurious of basic human emotions and feelings?

Accidents after accidents are taking place day after day, because no transportation is arranged for them. They do not exist in our list of priorities because the entire political machinery is geared towards a pro rich outlook.Everyday we watch on television the sordid stories of such people, we who are comfortably ensconced in our homes and assured of our daily meals.

Even homilies are not made. What is done is announcing an economic package which will not touch their lives. They are made untouchables and left to die in railway stations or highways, children are orphaned and of course we are busy analysing statistics arising out of the corona crisis. And what will be their statistics, only death death and death? Some may even say, why are they going home? Home is their emotional security and bond, when they have been literally thrown out of their jobs. Their callous employers aren’t even bothered of this fall out.What should have been done is now a redundant question what should be done now is more pertinent. Even as haphazardly shramik trains are organised there is no food no water. How can the government be it state or central be so grossly apathetic?

Are we a country which does not think of our poor, our construction workers, our farmers and labourers? No, wait. We think of them during elections, we think of them when we haggle to pay a paise less.This whirlpool of selfish interests and paradox has enmeshed our lives social and political. Today even lip sympathy is missing as our political class is busy pointing accusing fingers at each other. Will they stop only when these people rise in rebellion and protests?. But their voices are muffled and muted. We can’t even hang our heads in shame as we have no head or heart. When day after day we hear the same grisly story there is no announcement except the welcome stricture of the highest court in the country. And what we did not do was to give them food and some money. Was this a tall order?. Initially an effete announcement was made that they should not travel homeward but stay put in the place they were working in. But this did not assuage or allay their fears, that they would be disregarded by their employers. Some while leaving Mumbai vowed not to come back again. They were hurt to the core and we keep on hurting them.

Where will we go from here? How will we look back on this tragedy which we have allowed?This will surely be a slur on the nation, with history as a reckoner. The whole world is watching. But there are many of us weeping silently and helplessly but perhaps as Tennyson had said, these are idle tears. Yes we watch idly as they die, protest and weep.But even their shouting has not moved us. When we are crying hoarse about economic packages, where were they in our scheme of things?

Let us face it they do not matter in our agenda of things not when our country is run by politicians who tweak rules and ideals to suit their own vested interests and this both at the state and central government, why was the Congress party showing such an interest in Uttar Pradesh, and not in Maharashtra where it is part of the ruling alliance? There is no doubt that the lockdown in view of the corona crisis was needed but why were not the poor and the destitute our consideration?. What about street children ? and India has millions of them.

We have failed miserably our poor whom we commission to do our thankless work, our domestic work but whom we use as tools in our politics of hate and indifference. As of now our conscience is not stricken, as we are busy warding of Covid threats but the insufferable plight of these bonded labourers will be in time to come a long saga of our history. And then, there will be no time to rewrite it.

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