As COVID-19 continues to afflict people around the globe, various governments have implemented strict policies in an effort to deter the spread of the virus, including lock-downs and stay-at-home orders. In India, since the start of the pandemic, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has proven itself a case study in mismanagement. 

On March 24, India announced that the country would be entering into a 21-day lockdown, though this was later extended to the end of May. The most damaging consequence of this lockdown by far was the harm it inflicted on migrant workers in India. Tens of thousands of migrant workers were suddenly left with no stable housing, no income, and no way to get to shelter safely. With the lockdown put into effect, migrant workers were unable to use public transportation. Instead, they were forced to walk hundreds of miles by foot to shelter. Accounts of the migrant’s plight are nothing short of terrifying.

A pregnant woman gave birth on the side of the road and continues her journey, now with a newborn.

A toddler tried to wake up his dead mother on a train platform. 

16 migrants were run over by a train after sleeping on railway tracks. 

Eventually, the government provided transport for migrant workers, however, when they first announced this plan, they also announced that migrants would have to pay 800 rupees, about 10 dollars, in transportation fares. This decision was eventually reversed after outrage from the public and opposing parties. But shocking reports have revealed that 85% of migrants paid for the journeys home.

Since the start of the pandemic, the migrant crisis has largely been resolved, no thanks to the government, but the pandemic is still causing serious issues for the country. Despite implementing one of the strictest lockdowns, cases continue to soar in India. This wasn’t helped by the fact that it led to a mass migration of people across the country. Now, as the country moves along with its reopening process, the severity of the pandemic can be expected to worsen significantly. 

With over five million reported cases, India has the second-highest number of cases after the United States. 

Several prominent figures, including Home Minister Amit Shah, have tested positive for the virus. But the government remains ineffective and it’s the most vulnerable citizens of India who are suffering the most. 

For example, rural communities are struggling to access necessary health care. Those in rural communities fear that without access to testing or treatment, they will essentially be left to die. This fear is especially prevalent for elderly people in these communities who are at heightened risks of contracting the virus. 

Additionally, as a result of the lockdown, millions are suffering from food insecurity and economic instability. During the lockdown, people struggled to access food due to strict regulations that prohibited them from leaving the house. And due to higher rates of unemployment following the lockdown, households are left financially unstable and unable to purchase resources, including food

It’s also believed that the reported number of cases do not accurately represent the true magnitude of cases in India. Over 50 million people have been tested for COVID-19, but India still has one of the lowest testing rates in the world. Consequently, experts believe that the true number of cases is likely much higher than what’s being reported. In fact, it’s believed that the country hit 6.4 million cases back in April, contrary to the reported 52,000 cases

The government continues to vehemently deny the severity of the pandemic in India, choosing to focus on maintaining their image rather than engaging in necessary action against the spread of the coronavirus. 

The migrant crisis, inadequate healthcare and the suffering of millions across the country constitute major humanitarian issues, but the government did little to relieve any of these problems. 

Unfortunately, the truth is that the government’s handling of the pandemic is hardly surprising. Since the start of Modi’s administration, the government has made it clear that they don’t care about the well-being of the country. Every action taken by Modi’s administration has intentionally marginalized oppressed communities and pushed a nationalist agenda. 

The BJP’s handling of every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic exemplifies not only their incompetence but their cruelty. The pandemic response was hardly an outlier in an otherwise successful government – it’s the norm.

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  • Apoorva Verghese

    Apoorva Verghese is a Paul Tulane Scholar at Tulane University, studying psychology and anthropology. She serves as an editor for the Intersections section of the Tulane Hullabaloo and her work is forthcoming in the Brown Girl Magazine print anthology. In her free time, she can be found experimenting with her new Nespresso machine with varying degrees of success.