Since March 22, the day of the “janata curfew”, mainstream media in India has foregrounded the situation of urban workers like never before. Mainstream and social media has been flooded with videos and images of people walking as well as of urban workers who were stuck in hostile cities without food, even water and shelter at times.
An exhausted child being wheeled on a suitcase; another one playing with his mother’s shawl that unbeknown to the child was being used as a shroud for her; 12-year-old Jamalo, a chilly plantation worker in Andhra Pradesh, who died a few kilometres short of her village in Chhattisgarh – these are people we are unlikely to forget in a hurry.
The exodus has shaken many. Even among well-to-do Indians there is a sense that something must be done for urban workers. Few are able to comprehend how it could be that urban workers felt that walking hundreds of kilometres in the scorching sun was a better option than sitting out the lockdown, of uncertain length, in the city.
In response, the government recently announced that it would implement “One Nation, One Ration” in the Public Distribution System. It is widely believed that had “One Nation, One Ration” been in…