The migrant paradox

May 25, 2020

The migrant paradox
The migrant paradox
  • For migrant workers crisscrossing the country, homecoming has been bittersweet. The limited economic opportunities at home that drove people to look for work in cities and towns thousands of kilometres away have shrunk further since the lockdown. In Bihar, unemployment went from 15.4% to 46.6% between March and April; in neighbouring Jharkhand, from 8.2% to 47.1%, according to economic thinktank CMIE. The sharpest spike was in Tamil Nadu, where it went from 6.4% to 49.8%.
  • “Returning labour will be engaged in MGNREGS work. But schemes were prepared in February, accounting for the workforce in villages then. How can the same scheme accommodate thousands coming back now?” Kulbul Dubey, village head of Chainpur in Jharkhand’s Palamu district, told TOI. Jharkhand has received about 100,000 migrant workers. It is expecting 700,000 more. About 650,000 migrant workers from Bihar have returned; about 2 million have registered. West Bengal says over 250,000 have registered, but the Centre says 3 million are waiting. Uttar Pradesh had expected the return of about 1 million; it has already received about 2.5 million.
  • Further, in UP, property disputes have seen a spike — 24 family feuds have been reported in Pratapgarh, Kaushambi and Fatehpur this month. When people leave the village, it is assumed they will look after themselves. Now they are back and staking claim to land they had been written off from, sparking off disputes. “There’s been a rise in land-related disputes since migrant workers have started returning. We have recorded 15 such cases,” additional SP (Pratapgarh) Surendra Dwivedi told TOI.
  • Others encounter a disappointment at becoming ‘liabilities’. Take Sangeeta Lohar, a 23-year-old domestic worker at Bolpur in West Bengal. She would send Rs 4,000 to her old parents every month, but is now back home in Jalpaiguri’s Malbazar. “I feel like a burden,” she said.
  • Finally, distancing is not what a despairing worker getting home expects. In Jharkhand, seven workers from Goa returned to Bishrampur but waited under a tree for seven days, until their families could figure out which quarantine centre would take them in. Worse, in Bihar, six migrant workers have killed themselves after getting back. And the pattern is the same — they returned but could not go home because they were quarantined.
  • India’s health ministry has confirmed 138,845 Covid-19 cases (77,103 active cases) and 4,021 fatalities. 6,977 fresh cases were recorded on Sunday.
  • Fatalities across the world are 345,105 (over 5.41 million infections).

The numbers are as of Monday, 12:30 pm IST. Check out the latest data here

Well, at least the heatwave theory isn’t working!
Well, at least the heatwave theory isn’t working!
  • Remember all those theories about how the extreme summers in India will spell the death knell for SARS-Cov-2 and bring the spread of Covid-19 to an end? Also the studies, such as the one conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — basically to support US President Donald Trump’s sunlight-kills-Covid-19 virus present on surface theory? Well, they seem to be coming a cropper in India as temperatures rose to 45 degrees Celsius with no respite either from the heatwave or the virus.
  • To be fair to the DHS study, which focused more on surface-to-human rather than human-to-human transmission, also said that relative humidity needed to be above 40% — in Delhi, on Sunday, for instance, relative humidity was 27% while the maximum temperature spiked to 45.6 degrees Celsius. The Covid-19 count of fresh cases crossed 500 for yet another day while 30 people succumbed to the disease. The temperature in Mumbai, on the other hand, is still hovering in the mid-30s range, though the relative humidity is at 70% — its total case count has crossed 30,000 while the number of fresh cases on Sunday stood at 1,725.
  • A recent Harvard study has somewhat corroborated the DHS findings, albeit to a limited extent. It found that a rise in temperature is inversely proportional to the reproduction number of Covid-19 cases. For each degree rise in temperature above 25 degrees Celsius, there was a 3.7% reduction in the reproduction number, according to the study — but it also found that to contain the spread of transmission, the reduction in reproduction rate needed to be more than 70%. However, in most cases worldwide, it rarely drops to below 50%, giving it a relative Covid-19 Risk Due to Weather (CRW) and air pollution of 0.5.
  • For the current week, while India’s overall CRW stands at 0.705, or 70.5%, its key cities have a CRW of less than 0.7 or 70% — Delhi’s CRW, for instance this week, will be 0.564, or 56.4%. According to this report in Indian Express, “the reduction in reproduction number due to weather is projected to vary between 47% and 16% till August; for Mumbai, between 43% and 23%; for Ahmedabad, between 43% and 26%; for Indore, between 36% and 8%”. However, as the Harvard study notes, “warmer temperature and moderate outdoor ultraviolet exposure may offer a modest reduction in transmission; however, upcoming changes in weather alone will not be enough to fully contain the transmission of Covid-19.” So much for here comes the sun!
Pregnant moms with Covid-19 show placental injury
Pregnant moms with Covid-19 show placental injury
  • A study of 16 pregnant women who tested positive for Covid-19 found evidence of injury to the placenta — the organ that acts as the gut, kidneys, liver and lungs for a foetus during pregnancy. Published in The American Journal of Clinical Pathology, it revealed insufficient blood flow from the mother to the foetus and blood clots in the placenta.
  • That might interfere with the placenta’s role in delivering oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream to the growing baby and removing waste products from the baby’s blood. Despite following only 16 women, the authors said the study is the largest examination of the health of placentas in women who tested positive for the coronavirus done to date.
  • However, 14 of the 16 newborns were born full-term and with normal weights, although blood flow was blocked and many of the placentas were smaller than they should have been. While one live-born infant was premature, one patient suffered a miscarriage in the second trimester. But she “was asymptomatic, so we don’t know whether the virus caused the miscarriage or it was unrelated,” said senior author Jeffrey Goldstein, an assistant professor of pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
  • What the experts say: Talk over any concerns with your personal obstetrician-gynaecologist. And take the same precautions that are being recommended for everyone: Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask when you go out.
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The move to get global vaccines to India
The move to get global vaccines to India
  • India is looking at ways to speed up local access to potential vaccines and laying the groundwork for regulatory clearances and guidance documents for domestic manufacturers to bring global Covid-19 vaccine candidates to the country, reports ET.
  • Last week, Pune-based Serum Institute and AstraZeneca announced that they were in talks for a manufacturing tie-up for the potential vaccine candidate that the UK drugmaker took over from the University of Oxford.
  • India is also in discussions with global health agencies to start a solidarity trial for vaccines, on the lines of the drug trial that the WHO started for potential Covid-19 treatments. The government is also collaborating with organisations like the Coalition for Vaccine Preparedness and Innovations and the National Institute of Health in the US.
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Written by: Rakesh Rai, Judhajit Basu, Sumil Sudhakaran, Tejeesh N.S. Behl
Research: Rajesh Sharma

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