It was first in January that we heard of the corona-virus on TV and everyone thought that it would be just like EBOLA or SARS and life went on as usual.
I run shop in Delhi, India, one of the metropolitan cities with a population around 30 million crammed into an area around 14 hundred square kilometers with a population density around 30,000 people per square mile. The primary reason for this high population density is that people from all over the country visit Delhi in search of work, mostly migrant workers.
On the 21st of March, the Prime Minister called for a voluntary lock down for one day on the 22nd. On the evening of the 22nd, he announced that the lock down would be extended till the 14th of April. This announcement caught people off-guard and unprepared.
There was a sudden lock down of all the public transport services with only the emergency services allowed to operate. The police were instructed to enforce the lock down by any means necessary so they started beating people with canes who were found outside their homes. All the shops and businesses were closed and all the daily wage workers were left stranded in their rented homes without any means of earning their livelihood. This resulted in a massive exodus of migrant workers from Delhi to their respective villages. Some of these villages are 500 miles away and with the suspension of public transport services, these people had no choice but to walk to their villages. This resulted in a complete failure of the lock down as all these people were required to walk toward their homes.
As this began, they were stopped at the Delhi borders where a massive crowd gathered with no provisions for food and water. Some of these people were traveling with their children. Some reports suggest that around 40 of these people have died on the way to their homes. Even the workers at my shop wanted to leave for their hometowns but I was able to help them and assure them that I won't let them starve.
This incident completely exposed the unpreparedness of the government and the lack of any planning before enforcing this lock down. It also forced the government to start providing meals for people who were out of work and had no other means of sustaining themselves. Bt, with such a large population, many had to wait 2-3 hours for their turn just to get lunch which comprised merely of rice and lentil soup.
Crisis times like these bring out the best and the worst in people. While many people were looking for opportunities to help others, many of the politicians and the media were looking for a scapegoat to blame everything on. As such, they found a social gathering of Muslim evangelists from different countries who were caught in the lock down and hence were forced to remain in the same place where they were staying.
Some of these people were found Covid-19 positive. This incident gave rise to a lot of messages on social media and on WhatsApp telling people that Muslims were deliberately spreading the virus and this was labeled Corona Jihad. So we now have the media reporting the number of Muslims infected as compared to the number of Hindus infected. Delhi was still overcoming the effects of the Hindu Muslim riots which took place in January. And, before the people could heal from that problem, another one started.
It is also sad to hear of news coming from many corners of India where people are being offered free food while objecting it on the ground that the cooks are from a lower caste.
Because of the 14 day quarantine, many people are scared of being tested. This has resulted in stones being pelted from peoples balconies on healthcare workers who have been sent to collect samples from different communities. Subsequently, the police were called and people were forced out of their homes and samples were collected forcefully. It is definitely a distressing situation and there seems to be no respite insight with the lock down being extended till the 3rd of May.
It’s clear the poorest of the poor have been the most severely affected. The economic impact can be seen across all sections of society. Small business owners like myself are eating into our savings which are kept for emergency situations. Yet, even when the lock-down end and we are able to re-open our businesses, we are unsure of how many people will have money in their hands to purchase commodities from businesses like mine. The government has done very little to help the economy or put money in the hands of the people. Instead, they are busy patting their own backs by citing the low number of positive cases in the country as compared to all other countries without mentioning the fact that there has been fewer tests done in India.
Believers and the church find themselves in a helpless situation since we cannot go out. However, we are focusing on spreading the message of hope and love found in Jesus to our family, friends and neighbors in this time of great need. We are also concerned about the mental health of the people around us since all of us have been under lock down for almost a month now and there are still plenty more days to go. We (Christians) continue to meet together through online services and pray for one another, our country, and the world. We ask you to remember us in your prayers as we seek God to give us more opportunities to make a difference in people's lives and sow the seeds of God's love.
Author: Aasim, SRC Missionary in India
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