Vasai: Tribal migrants fear hunger, not the coronavirus (photos)
About 170 families received food and other aid in the Diocese Vasai. After the government imposed a quarantine, people are out of work and money. Many are not entitled to food rations provided by the state. The risk of contagion is high.
Vasai (AsiaNews) – Yesterday, Goretti Xalxo, a social worker who helps Adivasi migrants, and a team from Pahunch, a programme set by the Redemptorist Fathers in the Diocese of Vasai, delivered food rations to families living in Vasai originally from Chotanagpur, a plateau area in the Indian State of Odisha (Orissa).
“For 170 tribal families in the Diocese of Vasai (Maharashtra), the lack of food, not the pandemic, is a source of concern,” said Goretti Xalxo. “Seeing their tears was heart-wrenching and touching,” she explained. “Some of them didn't have enough food for the next day.”
The government’s decision to lock down the entire country in order to contain the coronavirus outbreak has left millions of people unemployed, mostly economic migrants who had left rural areas in search of better conditions in the cities.
Without work, many are trying to go home on foot, in some cases walking hundreds of kilometres, because regular transportation has been disrupted.
Due to the quarantine, tribal migrants from Chotanagpur are locked down in the eastern part of the Diocese of Vasai, north of Mumbai. They are poor, and now out of work. They are daily labourers, doing domestic work or taking menial jobs.
“Over the past few days, we have provided aid in various parts of the diocese. So far, we have managed to help 162 families. We gave them rice, dhal, oil, sugar and lentils,” Goretti Xalxo explained.
A tribal woman from Odisha, she is grateful to Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai for the logistical support and for helping get through the red tape and obtain police permits.
For his part, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Odisha) is very much concerned by the fate of tribal migrants from the Chotanagpur area.
"Without jobs,” he said, “they have nothing to feed themselves with. They don’t have ration cards and so are not entitled to the food provided by the Public Distribution System (PDS).
Goretti Xalxo noted that these people live in slums. They don't have the means to protect themselves from the COVID-19, not even masks. What is more, they are not respecting the social distance required by the situation.
“We try to make them understand that they must take precautions to avoid contracting the virus, but with few results. Food is all they think about.”
According to some observers, given the country’s great poverty, huge population, and vast territory, up to 300 million people could be infected in India.