The Coronavirus Lockdown Has Been a War on India’s Informal Labour

Harsh Mander and Amitanshu Verma | The Wire | 22 August 2020

The harshest lockdown in the world with one of the smallest relief packages has left in its trail catastrophic suffering imposed by the state on informal labour. The debilitating impact of this, many fear, will last for at least a generation, with many more children being pulled out of school into labour and trafficking; even greater levels of endemic hunger and malnourishment; millions slipping into poverty; and this poverty being more intense and much harder to escape. Economist and professor of development studies Barbara Harris-White regards the lockdown a ‘declaration of war’ on informal labour through ‘policy inaction’ towards their survival. In two newspaper articles written with economists Prabhat Patnaik and Jayati Ghosh on measures we believed that governments must take to mitigate the suffering created by the decision to snap the lifeline of all livelihoods of workers, we advocated cash transfers of Rs 7,000 a month to every household for at least three months, and universal access to the public distribution system. Read More

Two Years Since SC Judgment, the Spectre of Mob Violence Continues To Loom Large

Ankita Ramgopal and Swati Singh | The Wire | 19 August 2020

It has been over a year since Tabrez Ansari was lynched by a mob in Jharkhand’s Saraikela-Kharsawan district and over two years since the July 2018 judgment in Tehseen S. Poonawalla, where the Supreme Court condemned the ‘sweeping phenomenon’ of lynchings and mob violence in India. The court had issued several directions to the Central and state governments to curb such violence and was monitoring their compliance with its order. However, in the last two years, the Supreme Court’s sense of urgency in dealing with the issue of lynching seems to have fizzled out, while cases of mob violence continue to take place unchecked. Jharkhand has seen one of the highest number of deaths due to lynching in India, some of which could have been prevented but for the inaction or complicity of the police. Yet, on June 26, 2020, the Jharkhand high court dismissed a petition filed by Harsh Mander seeking responses from the state government on the implementation of the Tehseen S. Poonawalla guidelines to tackle the rising instances of mob violence in the state. Read More

Delhi riots: The violence has left a mental health crisis that will last generations

Meera Vishwanathan and Varna Balakrishnan | The Scroll | 17 August 2020

This is the fourth part of a series on a civil society report about the Delhi riots in February put together by a team of about 30 young people who answered the Karwan e Mohabbat’s call for volunteers to run a rescue helpline. The three days of violence in North East Delhi had left entire neighbourhoods like Shiv Vihar razed to the ground and deserted, thousands displaced, at least 53 killed and an entire community irrevocably shaken. When the violence halted on the February 27, the Citizens Collective for Peace had begun following up on our rescue efforts through legal, medical and psychosocial support, and relief distribution. We mapped over 3,000 people who were displaced from Shiv Vihar by the violence and were temporarily staying in the safety of locals’ homes in Babunagar, just a few minutes away. This is when we met Ruksana (name changed) and her family huddled in one of the houses. “What did I do to deserve this?” cried Ruksana, with a toddler in her hand. Read More

Surviving Insecurity: Mental Health Through a Riot, a Pandemic and an Apathetic State

Meera Vishwanathan and Varna Balakrishnan | The Wire | 30 June 2020

Within a single week of late February 2020, the lives of thousands of people in Northeast Delhi changed irrevocably. In the largely working-class Muslim neighbourhoods, the three days of communal violence from February 24 to the 27 saw houses and shops being burnt down, severed bodies being abandoned in drains, thousands displaced and an entire community flee into deeper corners of the urban jungle. When the violence ended, thousands were left without houses, jobs, savings and even family members. “What did I do to deserve this?” cried Shabnam*, with a toddler in her hand. She had to flee her home in Shiv Vihar, an epicentre of the violence. They had hardly gathered the pieces, when their insecurity and anxiety was heightened by the COVID-19-induced nationwide lockdown, declared on March 24, exactly a month after the violence. Since then, food insecurity has increased and spread further, health facilities have become even more inaccessible and livelihoods have remained disrupted. However, to the Muslims of the riot-stricken Northeast Delhi, the pandemic brought along an even more difficult time. Read More

Following authoritarian regimes around the world, India is using Covid-19 pandemic to crush dissent

Harsh Mander & Amitanshu Verma | Scroll | 15 May 2020

Amidst the dark shadow of India’s lockdown, the Delhi police – controlled by the Central government – has been busy with tasks entirely unrelated to controlling the Covid-19 pandemic. Its schedule is packed with searching homes and offices; confiscating phones and documents; and questioning, detaining, and arresting large numbers of persons. It is instructive that these arrests are being made when the Supreme Court has directed governments to decongest jails to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The charges levelled against the arrested persons relate to their alleged role in organising protests against the discriminatory amendments to India’s citizenship law, the proposed National Register of Citizens and National Population Register. They are further accused of instigating and participating in the violent communal carnage that engulfed working-class settlements in Northeast Delhi in February, the gravest Hindu-Muslim conflagration in the capital since Partition riots of 1947. Read More

The Kafkaesque Process Underpinning Delhi’s Flawed E-Coupon Ration Scheme

Niyati Sharma | The Citizen | 04 May 2020

As India emerges from a strict nationwide lockdown, it’s clear that neither central nor state governments were able to assess or anticipate the panic that ensued across the country’s very-wide socio-economic spectrum. In Delhi, where the Aam Aadmi Party announced a lockdown prior to the national announcement, the decision translated into a dystopian demonstration of wealth inequality; those at the upper end of the spectrum rushed to stock up essential (and not-so-essential) goods so that they could stay at home for a month without inconveniences, and the ones at the lower end, suddenly and unexpectedly out of employment, did not know how to buy their next meal. Worse, many had to grapple with living and dying with this reality, since they could not even go back to the relative comfort of their hometowns and villages after being dispersed by the police while waiting for the buses at Anand Vihar Inter-State Bus Terminus on March 29. Read More

The story of Jamila Begum from Barpeta, who is terrified she will be excluded from the NRC today

Varna Balakrishnan | Scroll | 31 Aug 2019

I know this is not the best time – the monsoon is here; the river is furious and your village is flooded – but we also do not have much time left. The final National Register of Citizens list comes out today, Saturday. We met at your tin-walled house, built so for flood resilience. Your four children were there – a boy and three girls. Two of your daughters are married, the third engaged.The son is still in school, which is now shut because of the floods. The day we met, you told me that you have not been able to work in your small field ever since you have had to go around figuring out why your name did not appear in the NRC list. The village chief, the gaubura, says it is because your panchayat certificate was not accepted as proof you are your father’s daughter, that Jamila Begum is the daughter of Abdullah Islam, whose name was present in the 1951 NRC list. The notice says, “Legacy person not parent or grandparent.” Read More