During the nationwide lockdown due to the CoViD19 pandemic, the economically weaker class has been the biggest sufferer. The daily wage earners and migrant workers are facing the brunt of the damages owing to their economic dependence as well as lack of easy shelter. Another example of this situation was reflected when a group of banjaras were found by the Chirang district administration. This is the tale of how a 9-month-old infant died as its parents tried to seek for food to sate their bellies amid the lockdown.
Banjara is a nomadic gypsy community with their origins in north west India, particularly the Marwar region of Rajasthan. The Banjaras roam around from town to city earning by their performance art like dances, acrobatics, pottery etc and set up camp on fairs or carnivals. This particular group of 40 people panicked after the lockdown was announced. The troupe was in Tezpur for the last many days. According to them, they were "misinformed" by people.
They were told that since the Prime Minister had previously announced that the lockdown would last till the 14th of April, interstate travel must be resumed after that. Doubtful about probable economic scope after the lockdown, against the best of judgments the group decided to leave for Rajasthan by the first option available.
They first decided to go to Rangia and catch a train from there. By the time they reached Rangia, they realized that there is no possibility of trains running even after 14th and in fact there was a possibility of extension.
This led to further panic and the people decided to hire a truck that was transporting essential goods and get back to Rajasthan, the truck being from the same state. But since the police is quite strict about interstate travel, they were stopped at the Sreerampur gate.
The trucker was ordered to take them back to where they came from. On 14th of April, the truck driver dropped the people in Chirang district citing disinterest and went away.
During this entire time, the people had little to no access to food and were facing major distress as well. A 9-month-old infant died in the process due to neglect and ill care which is the saddest fact of the incident. The Chirang district administration soon discovered the troupe and took steps to rehabilitate them. As per sources, they have been rehabilitated in a Madrassa in Kajalgaon at least until the lockdown is lifted by 3rd of May.
It is to be noted that during the lockdown more harm is being caused due to misinformation and rumors than the disease itself. Had the people stayed put in Tezpur and used the help already being provided by the district administration, the little child would have probably survived the ordeal. More such cases have also come forward where people due to unavailability of money or food have decided to walk long distances in the hope of reaching home.
Many have complained that they have not received any assistance from police even after being approached. A video recently surfaced in the social media about a group of labourers travelling from Nagaon to Chaygaon by foot because they didn’t receive any assistance from the police. In this regard, the responsibility of police towards making themselves approachable for such matters are also to be taken into consideration.
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