Rasheeda Bhagat

We’ve done well in battling spread of Covid

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on April 07, 2020 Published on April 07, 2020

The Centre and most States have been proactive. However, it was shocking to see the treatment meted out to migrant workers

Apart from reflecting on the idiotic and dangerous meet of the Tabligi Jamat meet in Nizamuddin, which has not only put the larger Indian community to the risk of Covid-19 infection but given fresh fodder to the hate brigade to vilify the entire Muslim community, the lockdown period has flooded the mind with a riot of thoughts.

While the taali-thali-candle-torch phenomenon might be needed for a huge mass of locked-in populace, the heart and the mind goes out to the tens of lakhs of people, particularly migrant workers, who were left high and dry by the government’s six hour notice to get back to their homes.

Under home quarantine myself till April 17, as I returned from Mexico city via Dubai on an Emirates flight on March 18, I have never felt luckier… to be able to take long morning walks on the terrace of my house; to watch from there the small pomegranate tree burst into a flowering frenzy, to see the many parrots flying past; and, above all, to find the karuveppilai (curry leaves) plant bloom like never before.

Incredible generosity

But we continue to read and watch horror stories of our poor and marginalised folk. Forget Zomato and Swiggy, or amazon.in and bigbasket.com, they have no money to buy dhal, rice or even atta from the local kirana shop. The video of of a Haryanvi who had to walk 8 km to get food from a Gurudwara was distressing.

Not even a minuscule percentage of stories had a happy ending such as that of seven engineering graduates who made the gruelling 1,200-km journey from Nanded in Maharashtra, to their homes in Tamil Nadu. After walking for 500 km and hitch-hiking for days, a good Samaritan in Tiruchi got a police pass to drop them home in Tiruvarur. They shared stories of incredible kindness from villagers who gave them food and water. Those who have less, share the most. Period.

Sprayed with disinfectants

But the bulk of the migrants set adrift by the sudden lockdown were not so lucky. Most of them starved, begged for food, and there were deaths due to fatigue and starvation. Other large groups, such as the one in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, were sprayed upon with disinfectants like pests. Even in Kerala, which has shown such sound common sense in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to its Health Minister KK Shailaja and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, migrants returning home were “disinfected” with salt water sprays.

Another Chief Minister who has grown into his new role at a testing time like this is Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray. Through a series of tweets and video messages he has been keeping the citizens informed, and even inspired. In one tweet he said that a “small virus” was now defying the land of Chhatrapati Shivaji, but the land of “the braves, warriors and saints” would unite, “put up a fight and win.”

But apart from leaving our poor labourers high and dry without giving them sufficient notice or transport to return home, and gimmicks such as the taali-thali tamasha and lighting of candles, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done a commendable job in containing the spread of Covid-19.

Western scientists and media have predicted that this virus will “rip” through India; well, so far, it hasn’t. Around 4,100 cases in a country of 1.3 billion is an incredible story of containing this pandemic. The caveat of course is that this may not be the real number because we are not testing enough. But there isn’t even anecdotal evidence of community spread except for some puzzling cases. Even if we multiply this figure by 10, and take into consideration that the infections will take a week or two more to peak, India can be proud of its fight against Covid-19.

But both our government and civil society need to do more for our poor and marginalised millions. Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has said the government has to prioritise the poor, called this the “biggest emergency” after the Partition and said, “India reforms only in crisis. Hopefully, this otherwise unmitigated tragedy will help us see how weakened we have become as a society, and will focus our politics on the critical economic and healthcare reforms we sorely need.”Wise words there. We need to mend our fractured society too.

Published on April 07, 2020

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.