New Delhi:Come May 3, the Union government would have to take the crucial decision of whether to continue with the lockdown or lift it or may be, start lifting it in phases.
The social sector seems to have mixed opinions on the lockdown. Social workers warn that along with Novel Coronavirus, the nation is currently fighting another battle - one against hunger, as the lockdown has taken away the livelihood of millions of people, especially the most vulnerable sections of the society.
Dr Sanjay Kumar, co-director of Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA), an NGO working for the homeless, has cautioned that lifting the lockdown would be catastrophic, especially for the homeless people and migrant labourers.
''The homeless and migrant labourers are vulnerable section of society. If infection reaches this segment, it would explode very fast, as they don't have access to basic facilities and maintaining social distancing among them is very difficult.
''Besides, these people have weak immune systems. Saving the migrant labour and homeless people is also crucial as these people are mobile, moving from place to place. Hence, they could carry this disease from one region to another."He appealed to the government to ensure adequate support for the homeless and migrant labourers, so that they don't starve during the lockdown.
''Proper support for these sections in terms of food, lodging, sanitation, health checkups have to be made, rather than lifting the lockdown and exaggerating the problem,'' he added.
Dr Kumar advocated a different approach to lifting the lockdown.
''If we look at the disease, it is very much an urban phenomenon. Throughout the world, it has taken it's toll in the cities. Even in India, the highly urbanised states are worst-affected like Delhi, Maharashtra. The lockdown needs to continue at least in the cities. For the rural areas, lockdown can be eased,'' he said.He stressed that hunger was another battle, which the nation needs to fight along with the virus.
''The government has to devise an effective policy to ensure that the harvest in the fields is cut, keeping social distancing in place and the entire food storage procurement is done in an efficient manner, so that the nation does not face any shortage. It has to be ensured through proper management that no one is left unfed,'' he added.
However, some people have different opinion.
Sunil Aledia, Executive Director of Center for Holistic Development, another NGO working for the homeless, felt that the extension of the lockdown could cause largescale starvation.
''We are in a very precarious situation. The lockdown has brought with it the challenge of starvation. If the lockdown is lifted, chances of infection are multiplied. Yet, if it is extended, people would die behind closed doors and there would be no record of these deaths.
''The government has not been able to provide food to people during the lockdown, there have been cases where people did not get ration at their homes, despite having ration slips. Hence, they are venturing out of their homes for food.
''Starvation deaths have increased due to the lockdown, Delhi Police records show that between March 25, 2020 and April 25, 2020, as many as 204 unidentified dead were recovered from the streets. You look at their skinny bodies and sunken cheeks. It is but obvious that these people have died due to starvation.
''Also, the Delhi Government had claimed to have shifted everyone from the streets to the shelter homes, if that was so, then how come so many unidentified dead bodies were being recovered from the streets by the police."Mr Aledia emphasised the urgent need for the government to include the civil society organisation's feedback in the planning process.
''Civil society and the police are the two most important players, when it comes to providing relief to the populace, our NGO is also distributing relief through the local thana. The beat constables are the people, who are reaching all sections of the society.
''The lockdown was implemented in a hasty manner, without taking the feedback of the people, who are working at the grass roots, the feedback and help of the beat constables, Anganwari workers, civil society groups. RWA's should be taken, so that relief and rescue work becomes much more efficient.''
Dr Kumar agreed that the lockdown was implemented in haste. ''Once the lockdown was announced, the labourers feared they would be starved to death. The government could have given two days to the people to prepare, they could have been transported back to their home states, needless to say that incidents like Anand Vihar and Bandra were totally avoidable." (UNI)