In situations like the one caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is mostly people with limited means who suffer the most. The lockdown that has been in place since late March, in different forms in the country, has brought life to a standstill to a great extent. As feared, the vulnerable segments have started to feel the pangs of hunger compelling them to take desperate steps to feed their hungry loved ones. Such reports are trickling in from various parts of the country.
In Jacobabad, Sindh, a man tried to sell a son so that he could feed his three other sons. He tried to attract buyers at a marketplace for more than an hour, but returned home ‘disappointed’. A daily-wage worker, he had been out of work for more than a month due to the lockdown. In Mirpurkhas, a mother of several children died of hunger, though the provincial government maintains she died of other causes. In Punjab, a jobless man shot his son dead in frustration. These tragic incidents give an idea of the tough circumstances the poor are now in.
Both the federal and provincial governments have taken steps to mitigate the sufferings of the people. The Sindh government had announced that it would distribute two million food ration bags among the needy. However, there are allegations of favouritism in the ration distribution; and according to some media reports, now the provincial government has expressed its inability to continue the free ration distribution due to lack of funds. The federal government also announced aid for those in need under its Ehsaas Programme and released Rs8 billion for Sindh. Unfortunately, many of even those who have been confirmed to get help under the scheme have been waiting endlessly. In hard times, there is no place for corruption and lethargy.
In the Irish famine (1845-49), known as the Great Hunger, more than one million people had died and another one million had migrated. One works to survive and eats in order to work.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2020.
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