India’s poorest ‘fear hunger may kill us before coronavirus’

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The small intersection of roads in this suburban area of Delhi is a hotspot where builders come to hire workers.

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But it was eerily quiet when I drove there on Sunday during the initial lockdown. Everything was still – one could never imagine listening to the sound of birds chirping in such a busy area.
But I did – almost in disbelief.

I soon spotted a group of men huddled in a corner.

I stopped and asked them, from a safe distance, if they were following the lockdown.

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Ramesh Kumar, who comes from Banda district in Uttar Pradesh state, said that he knew “there won’t be anybody to hire us, but we still took our chances”.

“I earn 600 rupees ($8; £6.50) every day and I have five people to feed. We will run out of food in a few days. I know the risk of coronavirus, but I can’t see my children hungry,” he said.

Millions of other daily-wage earners are in a similar situation. The lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening means they are now facing no prospect of income for the next three weeks. The likelihood is, some will run out of food in the coming days.

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