Can we really do justice to “Social Distancing” in India?

There are millions of rural people in India who survive in just a room and it is impossible to expect self-quarantine with a person sharing a tiny shanty with 10 people in a slum?

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Social distancing
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com/Ramdlon

Ramesh is a car driver and his wife is a domestic helper in Delhi. Both have been living in Delhi for the past 13 years (from Jharkhand) to earn their living. They have three children who go to government schools. The family stays in a slum area in Delhi and shares a common bathroom with five other families. They have just five buckets of water for a day and they need to fulfil all daily chores, hence washing hands frequently is a far cry. 

There are millions of rural people in India who survive in just a room and it is impossible to expect self-quarantine with a person sharing a tiny shanty with 10 people in a slum?

According to WHO, one of the ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus is social distancing. Also known as “physical distancing”, it refers to keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. In order to practice social distancing, one needs to stay at least 6 feet (2meters), not gather in groups and stay away from crowded places, mass gatherings like weddings, temples etc. 

However in a country like India where the maximum population is just trying to make both ends meet, is it advisable to expect social distancing to be abided by a manual scavenger? Is it possible for an Adivasi to use a hand sanitiser who can’t earn enough to feed his family?

It is imperative that in a large country like India where most of the people are economically weak, there is very little scope isolation, quarantine or social distancing. There is a very likeliness of the fact that these slums would definitely turn into hotbeds of infection, thereby turning the benevolent number of deaths to spiral. 

Even when self-quarantine, isolation measures have been undertaken by the government driven by political optics, public perception and international pressure yet this might not help in curbing the pandemic. 

In fact, the government should take adequate measures and rethink a strategy keeping in mind the marginalised sections.

Related: When the nation goes for a lockdown, who suffers the most?

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