Is it better to suffer the consequences of a lockdown or of Covid-19? That’s the harsh choice facing 11 million migrant workers in India when they have to leave their workplaces in the cities without warning. The country’s prime minister Narendra Modi sees a lockdown for India’s 1.3 billion inhabitants as a collective sacrifice that’s necessary to combat the spread of the virus, but his call to suffering only serves to outsource the miseries of the pandemic to the poorest of the poor.
The lack of work means Anees and Afsanah’s family in Mumbai have to sleep on the street, where they’re constantly harassed by police. Elsewhere, for the last of the construction laborers who are continuing to work, the prospect of food or pay is uncertain. Trade union leaders leap on the opportunity to inspire a workers’ revolution, but the protests lead to nothing except further curbs on dissent.
Dramatic and moving scenes from the city streets jostle with the belligerence of TV studios and Modi’s theatrical one-way broadcasts during the world’s toughest, biggest, and most unbearable lockdown.