A COVID 19 update from India

The information below was received on 1 April 2020 from Litto Palathingal, the Project Officer for the Society in Keral, India, who has kindly allowed it to be dissemntated to Vincentians in Australia.

India is going through 21 days country wide shutdown. Really tough time. Both Union (Central) and state governments are trying their best to contain the disease. The return of Indian diaspora from West Asia and students and traders from China caused sudden rise in the spread of epidemic. Scarcity of protective devices, medical masks, sanitizers and gloves risks the lives of health workers in rural remote regions. If 6 % of Indian population is affected, as projected, it will be 80 million. If 5% of 80 million require ventilator for a span of 21 days, it will be 4 million. One ventilator costs 4000000 Indian rupees (approx AUD 400), the base model costs Rs.1500000/-(1.5 Million). It’s beyond the reach of an Indian rural hospital.  Only urban medical facilities have ventilators and hi-tech life-saving equipment. So, the only effective option is to prevent the spread. Hope this shutdown works positively by the Grace of God and co-operation of people. But illiteracy, ignorance and superstitions may hinder its results.

India is staring at a severe economic crisis. On urban side, stock markets plunged.  Demand and supply chain of milk, veg and fruits strained. Indian rural population, which is otherwise poor, depends mainly on agriculture and farming. Wheat, mustard, paddy, maize and soya bean are being harvested mainly in this season. Poultry rearing farms are facing dearth of feed. Now everything stands still. Agri markets closed. Delay causes huge loss and damage. Fishing harbors closed. No sufficient storage facilities. Most companies declared salary cuts. All skilled and unskilled workers forced to leave factories due to unexpected lockdown. Displaced migrant workers, families stranded, but forced to stay where ever they are, due to unexpected total shutdown, at remote locations en-route to their home which is far away , 100 – 800 miles, now battle hunger as no one to feed them.

As per statistics, last year, working days available for average rural family was only 47 days. It means, by calculating at the rate of 300 Indian rupees per day, the family had only Rs.14000/- annual income , less than Indian Rs. 40/- per day for a family of four individuals. This is poverty.  But even with that they managed to survive; the present episode, an economic recession in pipeline, will derail that income too. Approximately, 54200000 families come under this category. So, poverty will grip more Indian families uncharitably.

Our Vincentians are trying their best to support the deserving poor families in their localities, mainly adopted families, by supplying food kits of rice/wheat, grains, veg, bath soap, and hand sanitizer. One such kit will cost Rs.600/- . Some of our conferences/ central councils are producing Hand sanitizer and masks for free supply to poor families. Some conducts awareness programs on hand hygiene. In some areas Community kitchens were opened with the support of Government. As mobility is restricted, we need to wait for more reach out activities. We may have to evolve more poor oriented self income projects to generate sufficiency to overcome the contingency. As middle income families also may suffer, who are our main local benefactors, our local income may not meet our fund requirements.  

We had joined the prayer of Pope Francis and our International President. Rosaries and novenas are being offered. We do pray for all Vincentians all over the world. We are reading saddening reports from Spain, UK, United States, Italy, and France and, it’s painful.

Joining in prayer, let St Vincent and Blessed Frederic pray for us.