IMPACT OF THE C-19 LOCKDOWN

PUNARCHITH’S ENGAGEMENT WITH THE IMPACT OF THE C-19 LOCKDOWN

In many ways, the onset of the C-19 pandemic or the lockdown related unravelling of the worlds of the working class were not unexpected (a black swan) events or trends for us. In fact, over the past years, we have been speaking about the depredations that a highly industrialised, anti-nature food production would result in. The pandemic with its source in a zoonotic (transfer of virus from animals to humans) phenomena indicates the urgent need for decentralised, ecologically sensitive and socially just food systems to be put in place. The unplanned lockdown also triggered what is now a mammoth exodus of migrant workers from towns and cities to their provenance in various villages and rural areas of India. Over the past two months, we have become witness to this tragedy across the nation and to the callousness of the political system. The fact that most of the migrant workers were youth, especially young men, points to the absorption and expulsion of such youth from the industrial-urban economies. Their future now is unknown and the collapse of the remittance economy in the rural areas spell both income loss and food insecurity for a large number of households. It is not so much the pandemic per se as much as it is the lockdown and its aftermath that has now become the key sources of an unravelling of an already fragile economy and the rendering of disadvantaged families and classes into conditions of further precarity.

For PUNARCHITH, this reinforces our approach that alternative learning programmes that enable youth to lead meaningful lives in the rural areas and emphasis on new agricultural and rural policies— that can focus on the majority, the small and marginal farmers and on challenging the established industrial Vs agricultural and urban Vs rural divides— are the need of the times.

Under these conditions, PUNARCHITH has attempted to engage with these issues and with the immense crisis at many levels.

Supporting Relief Work:

Punarchith team members started work in selected villages after the first phase of the lockdown (April 14th onwards).  Apart from talking to people about the virus and advising caution etc, the team members distributed emergency food and hygiene kits to 60 of the most disadvantaged families or persons in Nagavalli and Doddmole villages.  Thirty of the kits were donated by Deenabhandu and the rest were purchased by Punarchith from a new emergency relief fund.  Later, the team also distributed soaps (handmade) to many of the homes in Nagavalli.  Currently, the team is getting new layered masks made (thanks to material donated by Dr. Nagarjun) and these will be donated to people who need them.

 Volunteering in Bengaluru:  Suma and Samira have been volunteering in Bengaluru and are helping migrant workers through telephonic support and links to other volunteers. Vasavi also volunteered for a few days and assisted migrant youth workers at three police stations and managed to facilitate the passage of several young men to Jharkhand and Bihar.

Engaging with the district and village administration at Nagavalli:

Based on our earlier contacts with the CEO of the Zilla Parishad, we initiated the MNREGA in three villages: Nagavalli, Doddmole and Aralipura. By May 27th, a minimum of one week of work was completed in the three villages and about 2500 people received work in this period. Most of the payments have been made and the rest are due to the workers. Several dried lakes, bunds and public roads were cleared during this week. Many of the cleared lakes and ponds are now filled with water from the rains. We are now discussing the possibility of initiating afforestation in the public and private lands at Nagavalli. Preliminary discussions have started. Discussions with returned youth migrants have been initiated and we need to see what new training programmes or sessions can be initiated for them.

Essays/Publications:

Sunita Rao, Kerekoppa: Where the Village is a Womb (Click here)

WOUND AFTER WOUND: RURAL KARNATAKA DURING THE LOCKDOWN
A collection of nine articles about conditions in various villages across Karnataka. Edited and coordinated by K.P. Suresha and A.R.Vasavi. The Kannada version of the essays was serialised in the online magazine, RUTHUMANA.COM (Click here)

The English version of the essays is available here.  (PDF)

Samira Agnihotri, P. Veerabhadranaika, and Sundramma of Punarchith are also authors in this series.

 

A.R.Vasavi

  Coronavirus Lockdown spared No Thought for the Rural Sector (Click here for the article)

  Time to revamp entire food production value chain; give power back to small farmers. (Click here for the article)

  Bablu Bhaiya Nammanu Kshmisuthiya?/Bablu Bhaiya, Can you Forgive Us? (Click here for the article)

Petitions and Open Letter to the Chief Minister:

Vasavi coordinated a public/open letter written by various academics from Bengaluru and Mysuru to the Chief Minister of Karnataka. Three newspapers (Praja Vani, The Hindu, and Deccan Herald) reported this.

Read the detailed OPEN LETTER here: Kannada Version (PDF) ; English Version (PDF)

Public Interest Litigation against Hate Speech in Karnataka:

The lockdown was a period in which several newspapers, elected representatives and television anchors engaged in hate speech in which religious minorities were vilified. The ‘Campaign Against Hate Speech’, was initiated by a network of young activists and lawyers and they filed a detailed report on this. A petition was submitted to the Chief Minister but nothing came of this. Given the enormity of the issue, the campaign decided to file a Public Interest Litigation in the high court of Karnataka. A.R.Vasavi (along with the campaign network, and Swathi Seshadri) was listed as one of the complainants. Harish Narasappa of Samvad Partners argued the case. The case was reviewed (via online presentations) but was dismissed by the judges. The reasons given were that complaints of such nature need to be filed in the jurisdiction and is a matter for legislative action. The CAHS team is reviewing and considering further actions so that hate speech does not further spread in Karnataka and India.