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Death on the Tracks

This week the world saw a phenomenal rise in COVID19 infections and many countries are debating whether to end the lockdown or endure mass starvation/homeslessness. Couched within this dilemma, is really a variant of the age old question beloved by teachers of political science, “Reform or Revolution?”

We already have calls to sacrifice “the weak” and the elderly for the “sake of the economy” coming from the United States. In India, the lockdown policy has already starved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, with no plans, food, shelter, testing or treatment in place for millions of Indians who travel from one province to another, searching for work and food. This phenomena is witnessed in many large third world countries, and highlights regional disparities in capital investment, agriculture, employment, and centralization of state and government services, a management tactic inherited from previous colonial administrations.

Anti-Lockdown Protesters, Tennessee, April 2020

Regardless, the seven weeks of lockdown in India and in the U.S. has engendered a schism in capitialist society’s stories about itself. It is impossible to look at COVID19 statistics and not see how racialization and caste-ization of poverty throughout the world accounts for communities who are suffering disproportionately under the brunt of this virus, though it was supposedly the rich, whose travels in the age of global neo-feudalism, that are responsible for outbreaks outside of China. In India, such politics are complicated by the rise of an Islamophobic government on the best of servile terms with the ruler of the United States.

Around the world, the cry of “Will we die by hunger or by COVID?” is matched by dairy farmers and egg famers throwing away production in an age of unaffordability, Nestle giant Coca Cola sucking water dry from the earth and poisoning the earth in other places.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/nowhere-for-it-to-go-dairy-farmers-dump-their-milk-down-the-drain-1.4884951

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coca-cola-mexico-wells-dry-bottled-water-sucking-san-felipe-ecatepec-chiapas-a7953026.htmlhttps://www.thoughtco.com/coca-cola-groundwater-depletion-in-india-1204204

And we all saw earlier this week how in India sixteen workers, travelling with no support, by foot back to their village walked dozens of miles to Aurangabad, Maharashtra station, where they hoped the Central Government would allow trains to run to transport people back to their villages. Assuming that the lockdown meant that no trains were running at the time, the men fell asleep at the tracks and were killed by a train.

Rotis on a Railway track where 16 workers were killed, The Wire, May 18, 2020

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-52586898

https://www.livemint.com

I am ending this piece with a triptych called COVID19: Sacrificial Journey, drawn in response to current events.

Sacrificial Journey 1/The Long March, Kaushalya Bannerji, May 2020
Sacrificial Journey 2/The Long March, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Sacrificial Journey 3/ The Tracks, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

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