Do you know who are the first ones to die whenever a calamity occurs? The poor. Anytime, anywhere, they are the ones who suffer the most at the hands of a disaster. Most of these miseries don’t even make it to the news unless it affects the privileged class. The public could care less if it does not affect them.
We blame them for their suffering. We don’t see their struggle. We as a country have stopped acknowledging their existence because it’s way easier than actually doing something to help them. Do you know what happens when a country stops acknowledging the suffering of a third of its population? Humanity dies. Then all that we are left with is a hollow sense of being with no empathy and compassion.
In the last few years, every other decision taken by the government has only led to the demise of the poverty-stricken people. The moment India saw its first case of Covid19, it was very obvious as who will be the most susceptible to it. We had a responsibility to protect them. The government and the elite had the responsibility to protect them. The upper class and the middle class had the responsibility to protect them, but what we did do, was hide in our homes with months of ration, leaving them out on the streets to succumb to their fate. We were far away from their pleas to take them home. We closed our eyes when their mouths were hanging open with hunger and thirst. We closed our ears to the cries of their children. We turned a blind eye to the migrant labourers dragging their feet on the never-ending highway with some giving up their lives in the middle all because we gave up on them. For years the collective lack of empathy from the government and the upper and middle class have led to the demise of the poor in our country. We might not want to accept this like many other things but all of their deaths are on us. We killed our people.
This isn’t the first time though. For centuries, generation by generation, the class divide has been ingrained in our brains. And every generation that continues the custom, without questioning its toxicity, is more responsible. While on one hand we blatantly practice casteism in our daily lives, on the other we have the audacity of showing empty concerns on social media after we locked our doors to the migrant labourers.
Supreme Court is the highest constitutional court in the country. They are responsible for protecting the rights of the people. So when a petition was filed in the SC to ensure the safety of the migrant labourers walking on foot to their hometowns, in an ideal world, the court would have taken immediate measures. Sadly, what happened was that the SC refused to even entertain the plea. Uncaringly the bench ended up saying, “how can we stop them from walking?” This is the last thing we expected from a body which is supposed to uphold our constitution. The last temple of justice.
Labours leave their homes and move to cities for a bare minimum wage. They work under evil construction companies that see their worth in manhours and the productivity they deliver. For every out of turn promotion those sitting in the managerial position get, hundreds of migrant labourers had worked day and night without appreciation. For every cake that is cut for milestone achievement, hundreds of workers had sweat themselves in the scorching sun. The builders under which these labourers work are no less vile. In Bengaluru, a complaint was filed by the builders on two activists who were helping the migrant workers. These migrant labourers were working under the said builders. The absurdity of the complaint doesn’t end there. The activists were charged with a provocation to cause riots. Not only they didn’t do anything for the workers that shed their blood and sweat working for them, they now have an objection with others who are trying to help.
The problem with us is that we have stopped seeing them as humans. We have stopped seeing them as beings who deserve to live a fulfilling life with respect and dignity.
They need to be treated equally and not thrown aside whenever disaster strikes. They need the government to make policies for their upliftment. They need a representative in the higher authorities to fight for their rights. They need to be treated as a citizen of this country and not as a problem. But until that happens, they will continue to suffer, and the rest of the world will continue to ignore.
This pandemic might be the biggest concern for the rest of the world but to them, it’s not. They will die of hunger way before the virus gets a chance.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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