The Video of a Homeless Man & Stray Dogs Drinking Milk Spilt on the Road Will Haunt Us

Coronavirus

The Video of a Homeless Man & Stray Dogs Drinking Milk Spilt on the Road Will Haunt Us

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

“Help the needy,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked of India this morning in his speech while leading the country into an extended lockdown. But what really is the state of the poor and the homeless in our country amid the coronavirus crisis? A whole lot worse than one can imagine.

One of the cruellest images to emerge from the lockdown is of a man and a pack of stray dogs seen scrambling for milk, spilled on a road in Agra.

On Monday morning, barely six kilometres from the Taj Mahal, a large milk container overturned on Agra’s Ram Bagh Chauraha, according to an NDTV report. The stream of milk that stretched across the street, attracted a pack of stray dogs who was joined by a man, trying to scoop up as much milk as he could with his hands into a small earthen pot.

The video, which was shot by passersby, has gone viral. District authorities have said that they have informed a nearby police station, which is responsible for making sure the homeless and the poor do not go hungry.

It was only last month that Modi ordered for a nationwide 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. However, the haste decision has severely impacted the nation’s poorest, pushing lakhs of people across the country into further poverty and hunger. Coronavirus has claimed 399 lives in the country, the lockdown has reportedly left 195 dead.

India’s lockdown is the harshest in the world and since it was announced last month, migrant workers and daily wage labourers have been left adrift. Twenty one days later, the PM continues to assure us that the government officials “are making attempts so that farmers and poor people are least affected” but the ground reality is very different.

Thousands of migrant workers continue to live in a state of fear with no source of income to support them and their families. An anxious situation that has left many stranded, the grounded public transportation only forced lakhs of labourers to make the journey back to their native villages on foot, some even going to the extent of cramping together inside container trucks.

The International Labour Organization reported last week that around 40 crore Indians working in the informal economy are at a greater risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis. Sheltering the labourers and the homeless in relief camps with lesser than bare minimum facilities has done nothing to calm their restlessness. We can only hope that help comes sooner than later. Because for India’s poor hunger is a bigger threat than the pandemic.

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