An invisible humanitarian crisis in India -Harsh Mander

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published Published on Aug 7, 2020   modified Modified on Aug 7, 2020

-The Hindu

The state and the rich and middle classes remain indifferent as millions slip into chronic hunger and intense poverty

India’s labouring poor have largely disappeared even from the inner pages of newspapers and from television screens. It is as though, after the country has gradually unlocked and most migrants have returned home, the wrenching distress of mass hunger and sudden unemployment that racked their lives has somehow passed. The reality is entirely the reverse. The devastating impact of the unprecedented closure of the entire economy, which was already in recession, will endure for a long time. However, the immense suffering of the poor has been rendered invisible by the collective indifference of the state and the rich and middle classes.
Slipping deeper into want

On the banks of the Yamuna, adjacent to the largest cremation ground in Delhi, is an embankment called Yamuna Pushta, home to 4,000 homeless men. In normal times, they survived by doing casual wage work, mostly in eateries or construction. Work was uncertain and always underpaid; still they managed to keep raw hunger at bay by eating food provided by religious food charities in gurdwaras, temples and dargahs. I met them recently. Their destitution and desperation were palpable. There is still no work, and shrines have still not adequately revived their food charities. The Delhi government has mostly ended its free cooked food distribution programme. At the peak of the programme, about 10 lakh people were being fed in over 1,000 centres. I was critical then of the indignity of forcing people to line up for hours each day for a ladle of food. But although it could have been organised with more compassion and respect, that was still a crucial public lifeline for people thrust suddenly into mass hunger. With that lifeline snapped, there is nothing except for some small private charities to shield them from the blistering winds of hunger.

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The Hindu, 7 August, 2020,

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