The Moving Curve: Episode 39

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist based in Chennai. Every night on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight I’m asking this one — how do we balance the fair movement of people with public health?

That cement mixer video: https://twitter.com/Anurag_Dwary/status/1256520982488944640

At least 40 have died in accidents on the way home, according to data compiled by a group of researchers, and I’ve linked to their database. https://thejeshgn.com/projects/covid19-india/non-virus-deaths/

Here’s Chinmay Tumbe, professor at IIM Ahmedabad and an expert on migration, speaking a few weeks ago to the journalist Saba Naqvi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4evBWiXW04

The 2011 Census shows that nearly 40% of India’s migrants are illiterate, and the jobs they get are low-paying, while most safety nets come with the need for documentary proof that migrants rarely have. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/india-fight-coronavirus-takes-toll-migrant-workers-200324084150540.html

On April 29, over one month after the lockdown was first imposed, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, finally allowed migrants to return home under some conditions. https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/MHAordernew_29042020.PDF

Prajwal Bhat, a reporter for The News Minute was at one such bus stand in Bangalore today and he reported on the chaos there. https://twitter.com/prajwalmanipal/status/1256508851764916227

So what can be done now? A group of labour organisations have asked the government to waive off the ticket charges of bus /train for all stranded migrant labourers, run buses to the point of departure and front the point of arrival to villages and give Rs 3000 as an ex gratia to interstate labourers. https://twitter.com/TabeenahAnjum/status/1256613035306713089

The lessons that we learn from this wave of movement are going to be important, because when inter-city travel resumes for everyone, we should have a model in place. In China, every new entrant to a city must be in quarantine for 14 days. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to be able to move towards people flows in a way that offers both dignity and health and safety.

Thank you for listening. This episode was edited by Anand Krishnamoorthi. Tomorrow — a new question.

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I am a data journalist based in Chennai, India.

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