We have picked up new skills. Lockdown has taught us how to cook and clean, sweat and sing, all by ourselves. Some of us are trying to get fit through gym videos, some fat by cooking dishes we never knew were so easy to make. We are Zoom-calling, FaceTiming, Facebooking, tweeting to fight FOMO, feel alive.
We are learning to survive in a Covid world.
A world without empathy.
Or even a shard of human decency.
This morning, as we slept, 16 migrant labourers returning home were run over by a goods train in Aurangabad. The news ticker said 15 deaths. The toll went up after another labourer succumbed to injuries. This happened at 5.30 am on the Aurangabad-Jalna railway line.
A Railways official told news agency PTI that the labourers, who had been walking along the tracks all night, fell asleep with exhaustion. They were trying to reach somewhere. The train took them somewhere else.
16 migrant labourers, who were returning home, were run over by a goods train in Aurangabad this morning. (Photo: Twitter)
Someone on Twitter asked what were they even doing on a rail track.
Someone else started a debate on whose fault this is: the Centre or the states.
The rest shared pictures, wrote R.I.P.
Those poor sods. What a way to die!
The Prime Minister offered his condolences. Rahul Gandhi said: Bring in Nyay. now!
The news wheel turned. SC refused to ban liquor sale. States should rather consider online order, delivery. New debate, fresh outrage. Are we not adding to Corona figures through long queues at liquor stores? No! A bottle a day keeps depression away.
Those poor sods are already becoming a distant memory.
A friend from the Right blamed it on Nehru. The Nehruvian model of development was to industrialise some states, give them infrastructure, while keeping the Hindi belt primarily rural, thereby creating a permanent source of migrant labour to work in Big Cities. Nehru lived, so migrants died.
How could you even... outraged the friend from the Left. It is Modi. PM DOESN'T CARE. This government has turned a blind eye to the plight of migrants. Sonia Gandhi offered free tickets and the government woke up. Too late, too late, he thundered.
Nehru-Modi. Modi-Nehru. Past continuous. Present tense.
I withdraw from the debate, scrolled through pictures taken by Bandeep Singh of migrants walking the long walk home, penniless, parched, pitiful. Holding a child by the arm, another perched on sunken shoulder. A mother’s tear. A father’s sigh.
Someone on Twitter asked what were they even doing on a rail track. (Photo: Twitter)
These poor sods come to our Big Cities, build apartments we buy, make offices we work in, cook, clean after us, clear garbage, build roads, work in factories. They are the wheels that run our economy, the invisible shoulders on which we mount our five-trillion-dollar dreams.
They are also disproportionately from historically marginalised groups, The Atlantic reports. “Referred to, in the country’s official lexicon, as “scheduled castes” (those at the bottom of Hinduism’s hierarchy of castes) and tribal groups. Nationally, these two groups make up about 25 per cent of the population. India’s constitution, adopted in 1950, guarantees them equality of opportunity, reserved positions in educational institutions, government jobs, seats in Parliament and in the state assemblies. In practice, however, they often face discrimination and prejudice.”
But this is the foreign press. What do they know? The White Man and his burden, I tell you!
These poor sods will be back again. To sweat it out in our Big Cities, our homes and offices, our roads and factories. Labour laws are being relaxed, the economy has to be rebooted, billion-plus dreams realised, the trillion-dollar-plus economy achieved.
What is one small train accident?
Just another piece of news. Just another day in the life of India.
So how was your Dalgona coffee?