A Young Son Trying To Wake His Dead Mother: Where Does This End?
Every time a new heartbreaking image from the migrant crisis emerges, we tell ourselves that it cannot get worse. I told that to myself again yesterday as I watched the video of a two-year-old trying to wake up his deceased mother at Muzzafarpur train station. But the very next moment my conscience gave me a privilege check. It is much worse than this, on the highways, on train tracks and bus stations. You just don’t know.
Will we ever know the full reality of the kind of damage the migrant crisis has done to families, physically, financially, emotionally?
Being overwhelmed by these images is also a kind of privilege that only those of us sitting in our air-conditioned homes can enjoy. Our exposure to the migrant struggle is all that comes our way through social media and news. These are the images, videos and accounts that make it to us. What about those that don’t? What about the incidents of deaths, the stories of starvation, fistfights over food, children sleeping over trolley bags that don’t make it to us? What do we do with the tragedies that go unaccounted for? Who will write moving posts and tweets for such migrants? Will we ever know the full reality of the kind of damage the migrant crisis has done to families, physically, financially, emotionally?
- A toddler was left trying to wake his deceased mother at a train station in Bihar. How did we get here?
- Who is responsible for the man-made disaster that is the migrant crisis?
- Who will mourn the migrants whose stories do not reach our social media feed and news?
- What will it take for us to spring into action as a unit, to save our migrants from ill-fate if even this video fails to move us?
I don’t know what is more daunting. The fact that a 23-year-old mother died of hunger, heat and exhaustion, or the fact that we still have no plan to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? The crisis seems unending, so does our apathy.
I spent an hour last night looking through all the comments and commentaries on the said video on social media. All I found was a pile of words. Shocking. Heartbreaking. Disturbing. Gutting. I found no solutions. We are running trains, corona warriors like Sonu Sood have provided buses to help migrants get home, gurudwaras, temples and mosques are feeding the hungry. Those of us who can and want to, are paying salaries to their domestic help, drivers, gardeners and donating to relief funds.
A few days ago I came across a video of migrants fighting on a platform for food packets, punching, scrambling, snatching whatever they could get their hands on. That just shows why what we are doing is not enough!
The World Bank said in the month of April that lockdown in India has impacted close to 40 million internal migrants. The crisis that we are facing due to coronavirus lockdown is a man-made disaster. We could have prevented it. But we’ve failed to. And now it is beyond us to contain it. These men, women and children are already on the roads, on trains that are reportedly running late by hours in this sweltering heat. We are way past the point to think about what could we have done differently. That is the question to discuss when all this is over and we sit down, hopefully, to mourn all those we have lost.
I hope that the image of the toddler and his mother remains seared into our brains. We have to feel that restlessness day and night. Perhaps that could motivate us to finally spring into action.
Right now, the pressing question before us remains how do we contain this man-made disaster along with the pandemic breathing down our neck. How do we ensure that no toddler has to be explained why his mother cannot get up and play with him? India needs solutions, it needs us who are sitting at home in front of our laptops and watching this travesty unfold from a bird’s eye view go beyond expressing sorrow on the internet. For policymakers, authorities and everyday Indian to finally spring into action as a unit.
I hope that the image of the toddler and his mother remains seared into our brains. We cannot forget them. We have to feel that restlessness day and night. Perhaps that could motivate us to finally spring into action.
The views expressed are the author’s own.