In COVID lockdown, desperation and hunger drive poor to the brink

As a result of the uncertainty looming over people's lives due to the lockdown, those at the receiving end have started resorting to extreme measures

In Bihar, driven by hunger scores of villagers looted public distribution shops (PDS).

With the lockdown extended and its adverse effects over the low-income strata of society out in the open, a large section of people have started feeling the heat.

Distressed daily wage workers, farmers, lower-middle-class people, and even the poorest in society, as a result of the uncertainty looming large over their lives, have even started resorting to extreme measures like looting and committing suicide.

Recently, a 35-year-old man ended his life by hanging after being relieved from his job due to lockdown. He was a project manager in Patna.

Dhananjay Kumar had earlier lost his job with a telecom company in Delhi and had come to Patna to search for new work.

After much effort, he landed the job but was asked to quit shortly after the lockdown was enforced.

Being the bread-earner of the family, Dhananjay was under extreme stress, and even after multiple assurances from family, he committed suicide.

“He had been living under severe stress after job loss and eventually committed suicide by hanging from bathroom ventilator,” Khushi Dutta, Dhananjay’s wife, told the police.

Similarly, left jobless due to lockdown, Mohamamd Amir, 24, a migrant labourer from Bihar, ended his life in his rented room in Hyderabad.

Related news: COVID-19 lockdown may push Indian economy to below 1%

He used to eke out his living by working as a car mechanic but since the lockdown, was left jobless rendering him money-less.

Listening to his plight, his parents assured him that they will send money, but Mohamamd by then had committed suicide.

A tea-seller from Bihar, faced with a food crisis at home, also hanged himself after seeing no end to the lockdown.

According to his family members, he was tensed after his lone source of income – the tea stall – got dried up due to lockdown.

However, the local administration denied this and said he killed himself due to family tension, not a shortage of food.

Local sub-divisional officer Murli Prasad Singh Singh said, “The administration had provided immediate relief, such as rice, flour, and potatoes, to the victim family.”

In a heart-wrenching report, when a 16-year-old boy in Nalanda was arrested for stealing and produced before the judge, he said, he stole to buy food for his younger brother and widowed mother as he could not get work anywhere due to lockdown.

Before the lockdown, he used to work at roadside dhabas, shops, or farmland to support his family.

Hearing him, judge Manvendra Mishra not only ordered his release from police custody but also directed the officials to help the boy’s family.

“As directed by the court, we have provided food grains, clothes, widow pension and are trying to give them benefits of other development schemes,” Priyadarshi RP, Development officer told The Federal.

Hunger can drive even the sanest person to act thoughtlessly.

In Bihar, driven by hunger scores of villagers looted public distribution shops (PDS).

Related news: Amma Canteens in Chennai to serve food free till lockdown ends

Although the police have registered a case against nine people, so far, no arrests have been made.

In another similar case, angry at being provided rotten and substandard food grains, the villagers in Siwan, Bihar looted the PDS shop as a mark of protest.

Five people connected to the loot are under arrest.

With the rapidly rising number of loot and hunger cases, Madan Sahni, food and consumer protection minister said he has asked his department to probe all the complaints and take necessary actions.

He also said, the government, in order to help the poor in the state, has made changes to the ration cards system, in which ration cards will be issued in nine working days, as opposed to one month earlier.

However, an economist said the initiatives taken by the government are nothing but cosmetic measures.

Commenting on the situation, prominent economist Professor D.M. Diwakar said,  “The faulty delivery system has left the poor masses starving although there is no scarcity of food grains. The same government shows extra seriousness and reaches out to every nook and corner for making Voters I-Cards but when it comes to rushing relief to the poor during the crisis, the same seriousness is missing.”

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