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Millions in danger as Covid-19 sweeps through India’s slums

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Issue 2716
More than half of people who live in slums could have already contracted Covid-19 (Pic: Nishantd85/Wikipedia)

A new report reveals that Covid-19 is tightening its grip on India, and that millions of the world’s poorest people are in grave danger.

According to official figures, the country is already third in the league table of nations worst affected, with almost 1.5 million recorded infections and 33,000 deaths.

Now, a government-commissioned study indicates that the spread of Covid-19 could be far greater than previously thought. 

The results from antibody tests reveal that more than half the residents in several slums in the giant city of Mumbai indicate they have been infected.

Tests conducted in the first weeks of July found that 57 percent of those in slums had antibodies, compared with 16 percent of those living in other parts of the city.

Public health experts have repeatedly warned that India’s testing regime is too weak to arrive at a real figure of the numbers infected.

They also point to how many of those with symptoms are staying away from state facilities, believing them to be little more than death camps.

The enormous slums of India’s economic capital Mumbai are the very symbol of modern India. 

The skyline gleams with light reflected from glass towers that are home to the very rich. 


Yet millions of poor workers are densely packed in squalor where social distancing is impossible.

Toilets, where they exist, are shared, as are water standpipes. There is no sanitation system to carry away the waste of communities sometimes tens of thousands-strong.

That’s why Mumbai and the surrounding region, home to about 20 million people, have been hardest hit with officially more than 100,000 recorded cases and 6,000 deaths.

As the virus rages out of control government ministers are still trying to spin their way out of responsibility.

“The whole world is witnessing how one of the most successful battles against Covid-19 is being fought here,” Amit Shah, the home affairs minister, said recently.

But the hard right government of prime minister Narendra Modi is deliberately trying to obscure the truth.

After a failed national lockdown that owed more to his desire to be seen as tough rather than any public health concerns, they are desperately seeking to cover their tracks.

The coming recession in India is set to be of epic proportions, with the risk of multiple bank failures and company collapses. Modi’s every move now is calculated on how best to salvage the economy—and his party’s battered reputation.

Professor Jha of Harvard Global Health Institute is not impressed.

“I am deeply worried that in the days and weeks ahead, hospitals are going to really get strained, and people are going to start dying in much larger numbers. Deaths will rise, and I worry they will rise sharply,” he told the Financial Times newspaper this week.

Sanitation workers and miners are among those workers who have struck during the pandemic.

If the lives of the poor are to be spared from the killer virus, it will take the action of millions of others to bring down this rich-obsessed government and put the needs of the poor first

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