India needs to consider emergency food plan for poor amid extended lockdown

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/16 20:53:40

Migrant laborers walk to their villages during the lockdown in New Delhi, India, on March 29. Photo: Xinhua

India has extended its nationwide lockdown until May 3 amid the continuing spread of the coronavirus. While it remains uncertain whether the South Asian nation could avert a major outbreak through the decisive "Janata curfew," famine has become a more pressing threat to the survival of India's poor.

It is very saddening to see recent media reports of poor people looking for food in garbage after losing their jobs and incomes because of the lockdown. The Indian government needs to distribute relief food to the poor as soon as possible, or it will face a double whammy of a disease and hunger crisis, which, if not handled properly, could become a real humanitarian catastrophe.

It should be recognized that the Modi government has set aside special economic stimulus funding to help the poor hit by lockdowns. However, despite the limited information available on the current status of the poor in India, it is not that difficult to see that the government needs to do much more quickly to address the basic survival needs of those living in slums.

Unlike some Western countries that have also imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus, India has a large number of poor people who are struggling with food security on a daily basis. It is indeed really challenging for the world's second most populous country to take care of so many poor people all of a sudden while keeping alert about the spreading virus, especially at a time when its economy is facing grim prospects. The IMF slashed India's 2020 GDP forecast to 1.9 percent from a 5.8 percent growth rate projected in January since the pandemic began, which is almost certain to add extra pressure on its already slowing economy.

Although it seems that India is about two weeks away from lifting the nationwide lockdown, there is no guarantee that the government won't extend it again amid the growing number of infected cases. The Indian government needs to consider how to provide emergency food to the poor as soon as possible. As the lockdown extends, more people will face the threat of starvation. What would be the point of such strict anti-viral measures if some people would end up dying of hunger rather than disease?

Of course, India may not have the power or funds to feed its poor at the current stage as the US and some other Western countries do. If necessary, India should not hesitate to ask the world for humanitarian food aid. After all, there is nothing to be ashamed of compared to letting its people starve.

Posted in: GT VOICE

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