The total number of lockdown-related deaths stands at 24.

New Delhi: At least 17 migrant labourers and their family members – including five children – have lost their lives so far in the course of their desperate efforts to return home since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on March 24 that a 21-day lockdown would kick off within four hours. The total number of lockdown-related deaths stands at 22.

Aside from these deaths, and those of two others who were not migrant workers, an 11-year-old boy also reportedly died of hunger on March 27 in Bhojpur area of Bihar as the family could not arrange for food due to the strict implementation of the lockdown. The total number of deaths due to the lockdown is now 20.

On March 23, Modi announced the three-week national lockdown at 8 pm. Since stores and vendors selling essentials typically bring their shutters down in many parts of the country by that hour, particularly in small towns and villages, Modi’s sudden announcement triggered considerable panic among the public countrywide, forcing people to step out of their homes to procure food and other necessary items that night itself – thus overturning the very principle of social distancing the prime minister had advocated. 

The Central and state governments also had not devised an arrangement for those who survive on daily wages. This led to daily wage earners to take to the roads and walk hundreds of kilometres to reach the safety of their homes in different states. Instructed to implement the lockdown strictly, the police in several areas also lathi-charged them. They also meted out other forms of ‘punishment’ to those found walking on the roads by themselves, an act which may have broken the strict lockdown norm even if there was not necessarily any violation of the principle of social distancing.

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