The marginalised would need relief during lockdown
It was only a matter of time before the country went into a lockdown, once again. The question is why did it not come sooner, given the sharp increase in the positivity rate of infection over the last several weeks. However, in a situation like this, the government has to decide between health and the economy. Naturally health gets the preference. But as we had cautioned last year when the country went into a lockdown for the first time, that the economic consequences would linger much longer after the last casualty of the virus has been buried. Hardly have we recovered from the economic slide and we have been hit once again, this time harder, unfortunately. The government has issued dos and don'ts yesterday, but the contradictions remain. For example, we have not heard about the status of the Boi Mela.
Although the lockdown is for only seven days, unless it is enforced strictly, the measure will be meaningless. We would hope the administration has drawn lessons from the first lockdown. During such an eventuality the worst sufferers are the people at the marginal level and those who subsist on the informal economy. Last year's picture of the hunger stricken looking for subsistence is still writ large in our memory. Despite the government's best intentions of providing relief for these people, a good part of this section of the population had remained out of the government aid programme. Last year, the day labourers, rickshaw pullers and the likes had been the worst sufferers. We would hope that along with the health measures and strict enforcement of lockdown, the administration would introduce relief programme for these categories of people immediately. Although the lockdown is initially for seven days, given the severe increase in the incidence of infection, we apprehend that the administration may be constrained to extend the closure. Thus, all the more reason that the authorities brace themselves well to contend with the situation. What the marginalised are worried about is not so much the virus but the prospect of going hungry caused by the shutdown of work opportunity because of it. Last year's mistakes should not be repeated.