Locking Down the Poor

Front Cover
Speaking Tiger Books, 2021 - COVID-19 (Disease) - 240 pages


In early 2020 the first cases of Covid-19 infection were confirmed in India, and

on 24 March the country's prime minister announced a nationwide lockdown,

giving the population of over 1.3 billion just four hours' notice. Within days,

it became evident that India had plunged into its biggest humanitarian crisis

since Partition. In this powerful book, Harsh Mander shows us how grave this

crisis was and continues to be, and why it is the direct consequence of public

policy choices that the Indian government made, particularly of imposing the

world's longest and most stringent lockdown, with the smallest relief package.

The Indian state abandoned its poor and marginalized, even as it destroyed their

livelihoods and pushed them to the brink of starvation.

Mander brings us voices of out-of-work daily-wage and informal workers,

the homeless and the destitute, all overwhelmed by hunger and dread. From

the highways and overcrowded quarantine centres, he brings us stories of

migrant workers who walked hundreds of kilometres to their villages or were

prevented from doing so and detained. He lays bare the criminal callousness

at the heart of a strategy that forced people to stay indoors in a country where

tens of crores live in congested shanties or single rooms with no possibility of

physical distancing, no toilets and no running water.

Combining ground reports with hard data, Mander argues with great clarity

and passion that India is in the middle of a humanitarian catastrophe, the

effects of which will be felt for decades

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