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Lockdown: 310 deaths due to hunger, financial distress, exhaustion, vigilantism

By Our Representative
A civil society tracker, based on available information in newspapers, online news portals and social media, has said that there have been in all 310 deaths till April 30 unnatural non-covid deaths, mainly linked to the lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24. Pointing out these reasons for these deaths include suicide, lathicharge and hunger amidst migration, the tracker has called the lockdown a major “humanitarian crisis.”
Developed by Kanika, a researcher-activist, and Aman, assistance professor of legal practice at Jindal Global School of Law, and Thejesh GN, a public interest technologist from Bangalore, an email alert on the tracker says, among the widely reported cases reported include that of a 12-year old Jamalo, who was walking from Andhra Pradesh to her village in Bastar (Chhattisgarh) collapsing 11 km short of her village.
“In lesser known cases, a 70-year-old Somariya died in Garhwa, Jharkhand, because she had not eaten for three days, and a woman and her twin babies died in Kashmir because of lack of timely medical care”, the note says.
“News reports tracked during the ongoing lockdown suggest that more than 300 people died because of the lockdown: as a result of hunger, financial distress and exhaustion, due to police atrocities for lockdown violations, and inability to get timely medical attention”, it adds.
The note continues, “There have been a staggering number of suicides as well, caused by fear of infection, loneliness, lack of freedom of movement, and alcohol withdrawal during the lockdown”, adding, “For instance, unable to handle withdrawal (a medical condition), as many as seven people have died after consuming after shave and sanitizer lotions.”
According to the note, “A large number of migrant labourers stuck in quarantine facilities away from family, died by suicide fearing infection, and sometimes even the stigma attached to the disease.” Suggesting that this is surely not a comprehensive picture, the note says, reports only in a “handful of languages” – primarily English, Hindi, and a few vernaculars (Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali, Odia, and Malayalam) – could be traced. 
A large number of migrant labourers stuck in quarantine facilities away from family, died by suicide fearing infection
The note underscores, “There are also 37 cases where the specific cause is not clear. An example of such an incident would be where there is a conflict between the account of the state and the family/friends of the deceased about the cause of the death.”
“For instance”, it adds, “Initial reports about how a mother in Badohi, Uttar Pradesh, tried to kill herself and her five children was because of hunger was later changed after the mother admitted to other reasons in front of the police and district administration.”
Unnatural non-covid deaths mainly caused by lockdown
Giving a breakup, the note says, 34 people died due to starvation and financial distress (e.g., inability to sell farm produce); 20 because of exhaustion (walking home, queuing for ration or money); 38 because of the denial of timely medical care or attention to vulnerable groups; 73 committed suicide, and the reasons included “fear of testing positive, loneliness”; 11 people died allegedly because of alleged on account of police atrocities/state violence; and 40 migrants died while “returning home” in accidents.
Pointing out that 45 deaths were associated with “alcohol withdrawal symptoms”, the note explains, the alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and its severe form delirium tremens, are “acknowledged as medical conditions that require treatment.”
The note believes, “These deaths are likely an underestimate: only a fraction of deaths are reported by media and we may have missed some deaths reported in local media as well”, adding, “Most of these deaths were entirely avoidable. If the stringent lockdown was the only option available to the Indian government, the least it could have done is to plan better for the most vulnerable sections of the population.”
It concludes, “With India possibly entering the third phase of the lockdown now, there is an urgent need to acknowledge this loss and take active measures to address this humanitarian crisis.”

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