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Arundhati Roy: Modi's Covid Response Is a "Crime Against Humanity

In The Guardian, Arundhati Roy has published a longread about the catastrophic Covid situation in India and the incompetent, heartless response from prime minister Narendra Modi’s government. As Roy writes, the Modi government has been too busy spreading its ultranationalist message and overseeing lavish, unnecessary construction projects to bolster the healthcare system and support the rural populations who are especially vulnerable to dying from Covid. “The government has failed,” she writes. “Perhaps ‘failed’ is an inaccurate word, because what we are witnessing is not criminal negligence, but an outright crime against humanity.” Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

If Delhi is breaking down, what should we imagine is happening in villages in Bihar, in Uttar Pradesh, in Madhya Pradesh? Where tens of millions of workers from the cities, carrying the virus with them, are fleeing home to their families, traumatised by their memory of Modi’s national lockdown in 2020. It was the strictest lockdown in the world, announced with only four hours’ notice. It left migrant workers stranded in cities with no work, no money to pay their rent, no food and no transport. Many had to walk hundreds of miles to their homes in far-flung villages. Hundreds died on the way.

This time around, although there is no national lockdown, the workers have left while transport is still available, while trains and buses are still running. They’ve left because they know that even though they make up the engine of the economy in this huge country, when a crisis comes, in the eyes of this administration, they simply don’t exist. This year’s exodus has resulted in a different kind of chaos: there are no quarantine centres for them to stay in before they enter their village homes. There’s not even the meagre pretence of trying to protect the countryside from the city virus.

These are villages where people die of easily treatable diseases like diarrhoea and tuberculosis. How are they to cope with Covid? Are Covid tests available to them? Are there hospitals? Is there oxygen? More than that, is there love? Forget love, is there even concern? There isn’t. Because there is only a heart-shaped hole filled with cold indifference where India’s public heart should be.

Image: Funeral pyres in Delhi last week. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images. Via The Guardian.