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More than 300 Indians have died of the coronavirus, and nearly 200 of the lockdown

A cost-benefit analysis of India’s coronavirus lockdown must take into account the deaths caused by the lockdown itself.

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India’s Covid-19 death toll on the morning of 13 April is 331. As India extends the lockdown in a modified form for another two weeks, here’s another statistic we need to think about: at least 195 people have died of the lockdown.

Had the lockdown been better planned and more judiciously thought out, many of these lives could have been saved.

The dataset of 195 deaths (and counting) has been created by researchers Thejesh GN, Kanika Sharma and Aman. It has been collected from credible news or social media reports from across India, many of which are listed on this Twitter thread.

Also read: With the anti-poor lockdown, BJP is back to its upper caste, middle class, urban roots

The human cost of lockdown

Of these, 53 deaths were caused by exhaustion, hunger, denial of medical care, or suicides due to lack of food or livelihood.

At least seven people were killed in violent crimes, such as people turning into vigilantes and attacking others for violating the lockdown.

Migrant labourers wanting to return home were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres on highways that speeding vehicles were expecting to be empty. At least 35 migrants were accidentally run over.

It is well known that alcoholics can die of delirium tremens, withdrawal symptoms or driven to suicide if suddenly denied alcohol. India’s lockdown shut all alcohol stores. At least 40 people have died or committed suicide because we don’t consider alcohol as an essential commodity.

Another 39 people have committed suicide because they feared getting the coronavirus infection, thanks to the panic created by the lockdown, or because of loneliness or being quarantined. Yet another 21 deaths were caused for miscellaneous reasons.

These are just the reported deaths, the real numbers would likely be much higher.

Also read: Modi’s poorly planned lockdown won’t save us from coronavirus, but will kill economy

Dying to prevent coronavirus deaths 

Take a moment to think about the absurdity of this: Indians died due to measures that were meant to save them from dying.

It is clear that the lockdown is being extended, though thankfully it seems it will be more nuanced, targeting hotspots differently from other areas that haven’t seen any Covid-19 positive cases yet. There is likely to be limited opening up of the economy. These efforts will remain risky considering we still aren’t testing aggressively enough.

If the Narendra Modi government had prepared early on, starting in February, for aggressive testing, indigenously made testing kits, had manufactured more PPEs at war footing instead of exporting what we had, we wouldn’t have needed a mindless lockdown.

The harshest lockdown in the world that closes public transport, trains and flights, prevents people from travelling for emergency reasons, and makes it difficult for people to even feed themselves — this isn’t the humane way to deal with a national health crisis.

Also read: India’s democracy deficit comes in the way of its battle against COVID-19

What’s the point of living?

The lockdown is meant to save our lives from the coronavirus. But for some, it made life so difficult that surviving the virus was pointless. They took their own lives.

One such person was Rambhavan Shukla, 52, who hung himself from a tree branch because he couldn’t find labour to harvest the wheat crop on his farm in Banda, Uttar Pradesh. Instead of facing a year of financial ruin, he cut short the misery.

Another example is that of Aldrin Lyngdoh, a young man from Meghalaya who was sacked and kicked out by a restaurant he worked at in Agra. In his suicide note, he said the owners of the restaurant, which is ironically named Shanti Food Centre, knew they could get away with anything since one of their relatives is a minister in the UP government.

Lyngdoh committed suicide because he was an orphan with no one to look after him, and nowhere to go. Not that he could have managed to reach Meghalaya amid the lockdown even if there was someone there to support him.

Also read: By failing to scale up testing coronavirus, India may have lost crucial time

Before the virus can kill you, there’s the police

What sort of a pandemic-prevention lockdown makes it difficult for people to get medical help? Enforced by the trigger-happy police officers through lathis, this lockdown has been so cruel it wouldn’t even let ambulances pass in some places, such as in Mangaluru, where two people died as a result.

In Maharashtra, the police assaulted an ambulance driver for allegedly ferrying passengers rather than patients. The officers took a bribe and let the ambulance go to the hospital so that the driver could be treated for assault injuries. The driver died anyway. He was hit hard on the head with a lathi. 

These Manto-esque incidents make you wonder if this lockdown was about saving lives or just asserting the might of the state on hapless citizens?

A 29-year-old Dalit man returned from Gurgaon to his village in Uttar Pradesh. He claimed he had undergone a Covid-19 test and had tested negative. He was still humiliated and beaten up by a police constable so badly that he committed suicide. Who needs the coronavirus?

Also read: ‘Solely dependent on ration’ but Lucknow’s poor yet to get the promised free grains, pulses

All other patients are free to die

As our healthcare system gears up to save lives from Covid-19, people unable to use that system or see through a brutal lockdown may please go home and die anyway.

In Madhya Pradesh, a state without a health minister amid a pandemic, a hospital set up to help the victims of the continuing Bhopal gas tragedy kicked out the very patients it was meant to serve. The hospital was readying itself for Covid-19 patients. Munni Bee, 68, died for want of care. No other hospital would take her.

It’s as if India is already making the dark choices about which lives it wants to save and which lives are expendable. What cause of death makes for headlines less troubling for the political establishment? Which statistic should be allowed to rise?

Also read: India lost more jobs due to coronavirus lockdown than US did during Depression

Let them eat lockdown

It is a shame that in a food surplus country, we let people die of starvation, such as these two people in Bellary, Karnataka; or this 11-year-old Dalit boy in Bhojpur, Bihar; or this daily wage labourer in Cyberabad, whose body was found by the police.

Not everyone waited for starvation to kill them; some cut short the agony with suicide, like Sagar Deogharia in Odisha. The government is carrying out a “detailed probe into the incident,” of course.

The lockdown has meant there is no work for daily wagers, and hence no food. So they travelled back home where getting food might have been easier. Some died just trying to reach home. Like a group of migrant labourers in Jammu and Kashmir died of the cold, their bodies found under five feet of snow. They took a dangerous mountainous route to reach home thanks to the lockdown.

Also read: Migrant crisis could’ve been averted if Modi’s One Nation One Ration Card scheme was ready

Footnotes of history 

If the lockdown continues in its present form, it is bound to kill more people — through starvation, unemployment, stigma, government indifference, and police brutality.

But the government doesn’t have to worry much: these are poor, voiceless people whose deaths will be reported as stray incidents. Nobody will light diyas or bang pots and pans in their honour. They are collateral damage in the war against coronavirus.

They won’t even count as footnotes in the history of India’s response to the pandemic. Unless you can find a Muslim-bashing angle, these lives aren’t outrage material on prime time.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. Being a psychiatrist, if this was a medical research journal about effect of lockdown, it would have been thrown to dustbin. Poor sampling, poor design and full of bias. Of course it’s a news feed, it gives you okay to print anything . Number of deaths can’t be just cited , it should be compared. This article didn’t Compare that death that occurred as result of accident on a routine day to that during lockdown. Number of alcoholic who die on an average day compared to that during lockdown. Average completed and attempted suicide rate to lockdown rates. Average hunger deaths to those under current circumstances. Not only should this lockdown data be compared to normal times but also to other natural calamities to get a better picture . The true question I feel that needs to answered is “how important is the lives of our elder , our mothers, fathers, grandparents. This pandemic is about this vulnerable population. All other highlighted so called vulnerable groups like dalit, minorities, women, poor, still have some choice, but our vulnerable elders are like sitting ducks at the mercy of others. This pandemic has the power to severely affect an entire generation . The real death we should focus is what percentage of our elderly it has affected, not just focus on general population numbers. The question is as Indian should we stand up for our elders , is it worth saving them, do you really believe that letting them down them as no mental health consequences. On a personal level observation many suicides that have been due to guilt spreading corona to near and dear ones and its stigma, not due lockdown. Wish our journalists had better rigor in their research

  2. When there is urgency there needs to be prompt action and planning would only delay the process. When a building is on fire, the immediate focus should be to contain and douse the fire. Little time for planning. This is what lockdown has done and also to flatten the curve. If the curve were not to be flattened, the medical resources would be streched to the extreme and caualities compounded.

  3. The clueless,helpless Government has put the Citizens under lockup(to cover their failure)for a month and further up to 3rd May,with out doing any thing worth while for the Citizens. The Government is on holiday. It is for sure none can hide with virus for long.It is common sense, the virus is not going away soon and there is no remedy in near future. Citizens can not be kept under lockup indefinitely, life has to go on as usual, may be with some restrictions, but where is the plan of action and why citizens are not taken in to confidence.

  4. I think we only talk we are living in modern times,but actually we are not yet developed to understand truth I don’t want to get harsh reply seeing my name I just want to tell THINK LIKE THINKERS NOT LIKE FANS

  5. I have been saying since a long time, that the lock down may kill more people than the Chinese bio Weapon. India’s corrupt, incompetent, Kleptocracy Run Colonial-Communist “For Government, By Government, To Government” State preferred to resort to its familiar weapon of convenience , the Fascist Police Bludgeon rather than exercise its non existent brain on finding a solution the the real problem the threat to Human Lives and the demolition to the Economy and Way of Life expecting that the suppression of the latter might lead to the suppression of the former(!)

  6. Shivam Vij , are you a journalist or a member of the opposition party , even opposition parties are in support any way , so what’s the point . Yes thing could have been done better, with the benefit of hindsight , which is available only to the critic ,not the doer or decision maker. So can you take it a bit easy

  7. First of all I would really feel sorry to read this article and I am really unhappy with the data and thought of this article by Thejas GN, Kanika Sharma and Aman. I think as citizen of India and responsible reporter you should not raise such issues in media. If you are not supporting the lock down can you answer my question what is the alternative solution? If you see the situation allowed the world we are in very far far better situation in fight against corona Covid 19 pandemic and that is only because of the fast action taken by our government and lock down applied. Now whole world is going through the same route of lock down.
    You can not imagine what will be the situation in India if the Covid 19 pandemic outbreak. I would like to suggest you please see the situation allover the world and there figures for the Corona positives and deaths.
    Here you are raising the issues of 200 people deaths and that are also alcoholics etc. but one think you should always keep mind as denoted by our great philosopher Arya Chanakya to save life of thousands of citizens the king or rulers shall not think for the survival of few people’s.
    Hence for the survival of 130 coror if 200 people are died it’s acceptable my friends and that is also few of them are useless alcoholics who don’t have control on their body how they can be useful for building our nation. Now if you study the situation around you we required the youths, citizens who are ready to die for the building of our great nation India and we really don’t required alcoholics and the peoples who don’t feel anything for our nation our society if they are making suiedes let it be don’t give such useless fellow publicity our nation don’t required such thousands of alcoholics or drug addicted youths we want youth like lions to make true the dream of India of Swami Vivekanand.
    I suggest three of you instead of righting such articles and raising useless issues make awarenes in our society for fight against Corona Covid 19 pandemic and make our for lock down a successful mission against pandemic. Thank you.

  8. Very important article on impact of lockdown. It’s the negative side of an act with right intentions. No one would like another human to die of hunger and most people / government/ ngo are trying to help… But it will be difficult for such a large population and some will fall through the cracks.. but think about people who would have contracted covid-19 without the lockdown and died..local government need to do better and need to upgrade the pds systems. More people schemes need to go down the dbt route.. but hum kagaj nahin dikhayenge

  9. Could not have written a worse article considering what the country is going through
    Instead of helping you are also doing the same , panic spreading. Get some courage and come out in the open to help others and not criticise.

  10. Let us also have how hundreds of people have been saved of not dying due to road accidents and bad quality of air. May be, we will find that we have less deaths and better health due to the virus imposed lockdown. So much for the author one sided view article and tenacity to fault the government for everything.

  11. Total lockdown is a typical bureaucratic and political response to a highly complex issue. Could have been a selective and nuanced response with similar results.

  12. Salutes to this कourage to stand against the brutl rule of modi govt. who should be termed as half mad pm. You have rightly brought out that without giving any serous thought or some kind of preparations this lockdown has been imposed.

  13. Everybody has right to speak truth and truth is , lockdown decrease the infection rate and pollution , but perhaps was an earthquake for labourers and had broken down the spine of economy. Every action has its implications, if done meticulously will get appraisal and thumping back reward at the end, I think this lockdown should be remembered in history with golden words and it’s outcomes will took time to discuss.

  14. “Shoe I am ” data is as BS as his other columns. A slave to the MOTHER and son n daughter . Sadly even they ignore him.

  15. So sad. It is an irony that the world is applauding the Modi government for its handling of the situation. The dumbed-down middle class is happy to clap and light lamps for their balconies. If at all, they will throw some money for charity but not think.

  16. Whatever cases this article has highlighted are generally poor, voiceless migrants who are left to fend for themselves by central and state govt. (barring few exceptions like Kerala) Such incidents have seldom sparked any outrage amongst the chattering classes even in the past. The author needs to wait a few months – he is going to get a lot of grist for his mills when the middle class will start losing jobs, will stare at pay cuts, loss of homes, (due to inability to meet EMI obligations) children being denied school entry, (due to inability of parents to pay fees) and return of NRIs who are sure to be laid off in foreign countries due to their own economic woes. So far the ploy of the ruling establishment for any issue has been blaming the Congress party or Muslims for all issues or completely ignoring economic problems. (many of which are of their own creation) The government’s orders that workers may not be laid off or subject to pay cuts has been ignored (speaking from personal experience) and I doubt whether any govt will have the ability to force business owners to adhere to this diktat since most businesses are not going to be compensated for losses faced. The loan deferment is a farce because we know that in 3 months time even the govt is not sure whether they can lift the lockdown in the whole country so how are people going to make money and then pay back the added interest?
    The only solution from now on is politics as usual must stop. Economic issues must be central to the govt’s agenda. All other bills/acts/makeovers/subsidies can wait. The performance of govt must be judged solely on economic outcomes and improvement in common people’s living. False equivalency and blaming past govts is not going to make our lives better. It is now the duty of every Indian to force this govt to work for India’s agenda and not waste time altering perceived historical wrongs.

  17. ‘ Credible news or social media accounts’, and then goes on to list the deaths due to accidents, suicides, withdrawal symptoms and a host of other reasons. Compared to the number of annual deaths caused by these, the cumulative figure of 200 in a span of 3 weeks is a drop.
    Vij is a professional whiner, who is only happy when he writes BS about Modi government, and forgets that the people can see through this. But he neverless slogs through the days, like the good mariner hoping for better days.

  18. This body count is a favourite ruse of Shivam .Even during demonetisstion he was working with Huffington post and was keeping a body count most of which were not linked to demonitisation but Mr Vij would count them with demonitisation as a reason I think he is using the same tactics .Dilli dur ast Mr Vij

  19. “It is well known that alcoholics can die of delirium tremens, withdrawal symptoms or driven to suicide if suddenly denied alcohol. India’s lockdown shut all alcohol stores. At least 40 people have died or committed suicide because we don’t consider alcohol as an essential commodity. ”

    It isn’t and the author probably doesn’t want to address what percentage of daily wages, those who get counted as labor spend on alcohol anyway.

    However, the author is right. There are tradeoffs and I encourage the author to dig deeper into quantifying the benefits vs the costs. And then when all of this information is gathered they can tell us what they would have done differently. That would be a useful contribution to make. One can hope those who enthusiastically agree with the author will join in too, beyond the retweets, shares and likes.

  20. How much life lockdown have saved …u forget to mention… U are more interested in alcohol…are u alcoholic mad….

  21. Typical article from this website. If no lockdown then you woud have been howling for it. How about 400 lives per day that got saved because of lack of traffic why not add that too?

  22. If one draws parrallel then 1000s got saved who would have did of accident, 1000s got saved who would have died due to pollution, 100s got saved who would have died of food poisoning etc

  23. Lockdown needs to be addressed by State Governments – most often this is focused only on the urban population and the rural population are neglected. The food supply to the rural population and even in some parts of the Urban localities are not done in a proper manner.
    How much of this is noted and planned by the IAS officers in-charge of the districts in states and how much of this is mapped and tracked by the political leadership is a big question mark as most of them are doing small distribution of food packets for media and photo app alone.
    Capital of the state CM and Home Minister of the state and the Mayor of the Capital – they need to see the District heads have prepared proper outlets to handle food supply and medicine to their respective towns & villages with a proper planning – how much this is done needs to be checked by the MHA in Delhi.
    Periodic COVID-19 status is shown in the media – what have they done about food and essential items supply in rural and even urban areas? The focus is mostly to encourage the medical and policing of the lock down – we hardly see the food and essential distribution system (of each State of India) Mapped and exhibited by any News Media – why do they think this is not important?
    NEWS & TV MEDIA – they should go to inspect the food / essential supplies systems in Each State and Map them on the State Maps to indicate the flow patterns and prepare flow charts to show the public – how the food, essential goods and medical facilities are distributed to the public of India in all part of the States of India. This is my suggestion.

  24. It is as if a kid is analysing events nowadays. I mean seriously! Let me chime in then. Please factor in the number of lives saved due to no accidents on roads. Lets have a more well rounded analysis instead of cherry picking ! The author is seriously living a lucky life to be paid for a quarter baked article. Any logical mind would punch in a thousand holes in this number crunching analysis ! As a starter let me remind the esteemed author about the “possible” cost of not having a lockdown – a hundred New york cities across India!

  25. Should the cost benefit analysis include the lock down deaths, it should take in to account… the road accident deaths avoided due to lock down too.
    The pollution related deaths that was avoided,
    the industrial accident deaths that was avoided,
    the theft, rape and murders that was avoided..
    Mostly the projected deaths similar to US and Europe that was avoided ..

  26. Can’t believe that Print is publishing about Police brutality when they are the ones that are suffering the most. Be it the stone pelting or the cutting of arm. Who cares they are police they should die shouldn’t they The Print.
    Nobody can beat you in that

  27. It’s not due to lockdown. It is due to exhaustion or hunger as you yourself say. Come on now. Let’s be more rational. There have been no deaths on this count in Maharashtra

  28. Did not the now famous Bhilwara model call for ruthless clampdown to prevent the spread of virus?

    It’s one thing to aim for a 5trillion economy, which we are not. The fact is we are a poor country with limited leverage over the global supply chains which has made the process of preparation a complex affair.

    Loss of lives is not a happy thing, but under the circumstances, India has performed much better than those who control the global supply chains.

    This is an opportunity to grab the openings in the global supply chain industry. Hope the government capitalizes on this.

  29. You have made some very valid points but the problem is your selectiveness is really pathetic. You have given examples only from BJP rules states as if everywhere else it is hunky dory. I am not an admirer of Modi or BJP but be journalist man, comment fairly and please do not see everything from one single POV. Grow up man

  30. This is a tragedy of Biblical proportions. Fifty million poor people losing their jobs in a fortnight. Think of a beach filled with people hit by a tsunami. 2. I have never fully understood what the term Mai Baap sarkar means, although one associates parents with caring and nurturing. The poorest Indians have seen a very different facet in recent years. Uttar Pradesh at its epicentre. Within minutes, the official narrative about the poor woman from Bhadoi who threw her five children into a river began to change.

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