This post was originally penned last evening. Here is an update today which is heartening:
More than the Covid-19 scare, I am gripped by another fear now: what shall happen to us next year.
India has had bumper harvests last three straight years. We are the world’s largest record food grain producer. World’s No.1 milk producer. We are cashing in presently our yesteryear’s reaping. We are sitting idle right now doing nothing because Corona has forced us in to this tight corner. No other way out.
Govt advises against panic buying, true there is no need to do that so far. Until now groceries have been arriving regularly and every neighbourhood is well supplied. There are adequate stocks of essential medicines and anything and everything you may need for survival. But for how long can this go on. (Booked my LPG refill two days back and got it in 24 hours. Kudos! With a rate reduction, thank you PM Modi!)
Today I heard Sadhguru talking about the impending food crisis once this is over. But even before he talked about this, i’ve been asking my maid whether farm activities are on in rural areas. She is from a village 100 km from Chennai and talks to her folks over phone almost every single day. She said, some farm workers are going to work while others aren’t. Agricultural activity is slack, but can’t say there is nothing happening. Without sales, flowers are withering in sun, without buyers, fresh milk is thrown in thousands of liters to waste. Vegetables and fruits are rotting without reaching markets in towns and cities. No mutton supply as transport is stalled to metros. Chicken and eggs are in good supply. I have a couple of fruit and vegetable vendors wheeling their carts into my street. I use every such opportunity to replenish my grocery stock. However I am aware, we are enjoying the harvests of last season. The new season has not yet begun for us sadly.
As Sadhguru rightly pointed out, this is harvest season in the north, while it is preparation time for the soil in the south. The south harvest was over with Pongal/Sankranthi in January. In fact I was asking about this to my maid who told me that near her place closer to Kanchipuram, small and marginal farmers were going in for short term crops like groundnut and greengram. In Tamil Nadu, from tv news I gathered that the floriculturists were moving over to short term commercial crops. Now neither do we have harvest nor cultivation in progress. So what do we have in store for next year. India is a monsoon dependent country. Time before monsoons (March to May) are very important for sowing and preparation.
I am sure, this scenario is not India specific but is universal. One reason why President Trump has been reluctant to go in for a total lockdown of the US. However, are we left with any other choice.
I can go on and on and on.
Yet, let me clarify here, this social distancing, this lockdown is the need of the hour in the interests of a larger cause.
Most hit will be our farmer community whose investments have turned to dust already. Govt of India is doing their best to compensate farmers for their losses. Provisions of rice, wheat, pulses and sugar bags were distributed free in my street PDS under police vigilance. My maid got my share and I asked her to keep the government assistance of Rs.1,000/-. It will go a long way in helping her family have a normal life as her daily wage earner husband is currently unemployed. My regular autowallah called me even as I was thinking about him. I would like to help both these families more but they are very proud people even if poor. Both my maid and my autowallah refused financial aid from me and said, what the government is doing for them is more than enough for them. Extremely proud of these two families. Poor so what. My autowallah saves well and has a robust bank balance. The poorest of India are taken good care of. The corporation wedding hall near my residence now accommodates the homeless who are provided free three square meals a day.
I am yet to contribute to our PM’s fund which i will be doing anytime now. I am waiting for the initial wave to subside.
To NRI community working and living in Arab countries, there is a cause for concern. Imports of food and dairy products must have trickled down to minimum. Cargo flights may be operating as yet, however when the local markets in the exporting countries do not function, what will be there to ship? I did spot a cargo flight I guess, the lone flight in the skies a couple of days back. Eerie sight! Rich, arrogant nations that thought that anything and everything can be bought over with oil and greenbacks have been taught a unforgettable lesson. It is all becoming one vicious cycle! Finally what will subsist us will be our own good Mother Earth with her gift of Farm Produce.
Someone posted this on social media:
Before the lockdown was announced for 21 days and we guessed what was coming once it was out that PM Modi intended to address the nation, what did we rush to buy and stock:
Food, food and more food.
Nothing else mattered.
None of us rushed to buy gold or diamond or oil or sedans or clothes or branded accessories for that matter.
On the lighter side, a friend posted:
‘My kurtis and saris are begging me to wear them as they pondered, ‘so is she on holiday’
My jeans replied, ‘if she is on holiday, then she would be wearing me! no she is not!’
And then my nightie shot back, ‘oh she works from home and i am on 24 hour duty now!’
Although I laughed loud at this, can’t help thinking on that.
Hopefully normalcy returns soon to our lives.
Having clearer skies and bluer oceans makes me feel good, seeing wildlife and birds have a free run delights my heart yet soon some day, things will be back as they were before.
However I am in no rush to come out of lockdown. Prepared to wait it out.
If a second phase of lockdown has to follow, i am for that too.
My humble plea is that, agricultural activities be exempted from lockdown wherever and whenever possible. With due precaution of course. India feeds not only 1.3 billion heads, but a host of other nations. Dozens of nations live on our food grain export. We can live without their oil and gas. They cannot live without our food and diary.
I look forward to the day I can preen in front of my friends in my new designer sari… To restore balance, we can have a 24 hour lockdown every sunday in India in my opinion from now on.