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No Rented House, No Village to Go Back: In Sad Script of Dark Times, These 'Homeless' Get the Lead Role

Migrants laborers hailing from Uttar Pradesh state with their families trying to return to their villages walk towards a bus terminus in New Delhi.

Migrants laborers hailing from Uttar Pradesh state with their families trying to return to their villages walk towards a bus terminus in New Delhi.

It is reported in international media widely that some people were thrown out of their shelter homes after one member of their community was found infected with Covid-19.

Badri Narayan
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 2:52 PM IST
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I am going to compose here one of the sad songs about the dark time and this dark time is obviously the coronavirus crisis. This sad song of dark time is weaved with a tragic side narrative, produced by Covid-19 crisis. This story is about how ‘homelessness’, which is being considered nowadays as a soft zone of sharp rise of virus infection cases all over the world, is also growing due to coronavirus condition itself.

It may be true that coronavirus gets easy network to expand itself among homeless people, but it is also contributing in the making of condition of homelessness. In the United States — Washington state, California, Oregano are most affected regions by homelessness.

These homeless people mostly leaving in encamp near roadsides and many near train stations, in the church campuses etc. Many of them use to stay in open spaces with no mattress, without any masks and hand gloves in coronavirus times in which living in home is suggested as safe.

It is point to observe that due to coronavirus, new homelessness are being produced. It is reported in international media widely that some people were thrown out of their shelter homes after one member of their community was found infected with Covid-19.

Secondly, the loss of job and work due to coronavirus-led lockdown, low income people who pay almost 50 per cent of their salary as house rent, they are also compelled to become homeless and stay in camps etc in the United States.

In Italy, situation is much pathetic where many lowly paid population are emerging as new possible homeless. This coronavirus fear has created a situation that common people feel scared from these homeless part of their own society as body which may bear coronavirus due to their compelled living situation.

In India also, whose 1.77 million population are already homeless which is 0.15 per cent of country's total population, according to 2011 census, is facing similar problem.

Many migrant labourers, daily wage earners, informal sector workers in India who lost their jobs due to coronavirus produced lockdown. Since they have no earning, and compelled to vacate their houses which were rented and become homeless population of India.

Many of them are bound to return their villages and many of them have made their home roadside, under roof of flyovers, some of them are using tree as their temporary homes and some of them are still travelling on their foot in search of their home.

Due to the lockdown, many shops, small industries and work factories, dhabas, restaurants have closed in which their employed labourer use to slip in the night. Because of this these labourers ,betters ,helpers have become homeless.

Some of them were using front space of their shops to sleep in the night, now due to closed shops, police don’t allow them to sleep on those roadside pavements where these homeless migrants used to sleep.

In India, problem is much severe where lakhs of homeless were using public spaces such as park, railway stations, temples , roadside pavements, streets, staircases now many of them are not allowed to be there by administration and also by the residents of the locality because we see them as possible case of coronavirus.

Their presence on those spaces scares us and we want to save ourselves to ensure their evacuation. We see those poor labourer body as polluted, dirty and possible chain of the dissemination of Covid-19. In these condition these homeless poor people and labourer become doubly homeless in India.

In the many cities and towns in India where labourers live in rented houses, they are compelled to vacate even in lockdown because of two reasons — firstly, due to lack of joblessness and earning they are not able to pay rent. Most of the house owner are not considerate to allow them to stay in the houses on the promise to pay when their earning will begin. Secondly, house owner see them in many cases a suspected carrier of infection due to stereotypical image of labourer’s every day life as unclean and unhygienic.

The way zones of coronavirus circulation are expanding, the pandemics which earlier travelled through elite and middle class bodies in many world societies, the discourses produced by media and state is shifting slowly towards slums, homeless, poor and projecting them as much vulnerable population of coronavirus dissemination.

Their level of immunity, their food habits, their lifestyle are being projected as much vulnerable for coronavirus infection. I don’t deny such possibilities but I would like to submit that in these discourses some of the elite stereotypes about poor may be wrongly appearing as reflection of our elite and middle class dominated public common sense.

There is danger that these common sense and stereotypes may project these 'have nots as dangerous infected body’ for those who have all privileges and facilities to stay safe in their bungalows and gated apartments.

To make ourselves safe and secure, we may target poor as cause of circulation of pandemics and behave with them inhumanly. Recently when many migrant labourera returned to their own villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, there are reports that in some of the villages their entry was blocked and they spent night in village gardens for some time.

‘One may be danger for another’ but not only poor, not our poor. This may be song for this dark time as eminent poet Brecht told once in one of his poems - ‘In the dark time, will there be a singing? There will be singing, of dark time.


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