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The untold story….

India has little or no social welfare system. For many people, if they don’t work and earn, they don’t eat.

The situation on the ground for food distribution in 2021 is reported to be worse than 2020. The issue of potential starvation could become an even greater issue in 2021 as the lockdowns continue.

By Nazarul Islam

With a total population of 1.39 billion souls, India comprises of nearly 18 percent of today’s global population. The median annual per capita income is $616. The reality is that hundreds of millions of people in India have continued to survive, with a hand to mouth existence.

They work hard and earn a couple of dollars, and eat once they have earned the money. India has little or no social welfare system. For many people, if they don’t work and earn, they don’t eat.

In 2020, India reported 148,738 deaths as a result of Covid-19. That roughly equates to 0.01% of the population. The average death rate in India in 2020 was 7.25 per 1000 of the population.

And, that means over 10 million people died in India in 2020 and only 1.5% were coronavirus deaths…that is assuming that the 148,738 coronavirus deaths reported were actually caused by coronavirus. The WHO guidelines for reporting deaths do not make clear the difference between dying ‘from’ coronavirus, and dying ‘with’ coronavirus.

At the end of March 2020, India’s emotional Prime Minister, Narendra Modi took the drastic action of locking down the Indian economy due to the coronavirus pandemic. Obviously, the government took decisions as to whom they considered an ‘essential worker’ and who was considered ‘non-essential’.

Unlike the official counterparts in the West, the Indian government did not hand out $600 monthly cheques for those that it had determined to be ‘non-essential’ and told to stay at home and not work. And the initial enforcement of the lockdowns was pretty draconian.

Last April I had received a desperate plea from a press worker I had known who happens to live in the slums in Mumbai. He had once shared that the total living area of his home is roughly 20 square meters, where he managed to live with 7 family members.

He had messaged me to say that he was locked down at home with his family and that they had no food and were starving. Could I please send him some money?

The following day he called me, to say:

“Sir, I received your money, but I am not allowed to step outside. I tried once, to buy food but the policemen caught me, and then beat me up with lathi. I still don’t have food for my starving family.”

Moved, I had to intervene and request a friend who had a journalist pass and was considered an ‘essential worker’ to go and buy food and take the food into the slum for him and his family so that they would not starve to death.

Perhaps…they were the lucky ones.

A recent survey, carried out of the urban poor by a company called IDinsight, has revealed a heart breaking story. According to the IDinsight, a market research firm in the social sector in India, the Indians living in slum neighborhoods reported a 72% reduction in income from a very low base. And the percentage of respondents that reported having no work went up from 7.3% in March to 23.6% in May of 2021!

It is a real struggle to understand why the Indian government would shut down large parts of the Indian economy and put potentially hundreds of millions of poor people’s lives at the risk of starvation by locking them in their houses because a tiny fraction of the population has caught a flu virus.

There is little or no data available on the numbers of people who have died from starvation. Although, a study was conducted, two years ago, with findings that over 450,000 children alone has died as a result of malnutrition in 2017. And, thanks to the lockdown, those numbers will only go up.

It is therefore anybody’s guess as to how many of the poor in India have died.

When the dust settles, I would expect that more people will die from starvation in India, than from the coronavirus in the whole world. And there is very little information being collected or reported on it.

The situation on the ground for food distribution in 2021 is reported to be worse than 2020. India’s food distribution system of getting produce from farm to table is highly inefficient at its best. The lockdowns were reported locally to have amplified the inefficiencies in the food supply chain manifold.

The issue of potential starvation could become an even greater issue in 2021 as the lockdowns continue. Without data on starvation, the stories remain anecdotal. I have a serious fear that when the coronavirus hysteria blows over, we will discover in its wake, a colossal human tragedy will evolve, with a new famine or mass starvation in the country.

UN World Food Program has made an official prediction:

The Food Program had projected 135.0 million people around the world were expected to suffer from starvation, as a result of Covid-19 in 2920. However, the UN experts project nearly 260.0 million people are expected to suffer from food shortage in the current year, 2021.

This catastrophic event may go down in history, as the greatest of of human tragedies on our planet.

Nazarul Islam

The Bengal-born writer Nazarul Islam is a senior educationist based in USA. He writes for Sindh Courier and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America. He is author of a recently published book ‘Chasing Hope’ – a compilation of his 119 articles.

 

 

 

 

 

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