Covid-19 in India: ‘If you benefit from global markets, then you need to participate in global solidarity’

Even as politicians in the UK are mired in vaccine complacency and people enjoy a sense of returning normality, India is suffering a devastating new wave of Covid-19. The country is seeing not only a large and under-reported wave of deaths but also the decimation of industries and sectors of the economy.

Much of that industry (especially in textiles) trades with countries like the UK. Yet for many in India, the bills for this trade have gone unpaid even as the farmers and workers who produce the garments fall sick and die.

‘If you benefit from global markets then you need to participate in global solidarity‘, says a campaign launched by Cotton Diaries. The campaign urges textile companies to support countries and businesses affected by the pandemic.

The official death toll in India as given in the campaign documents is over 270,000 people, but this is known to be a gross underestimate. The incidence of new daily cases could soon reach a million. There are also concerns, a source told us, that official figures could be seen to be falling even as real figures are climbing.

In rural areas, despite much progress, connectivity to information and provision of services like health care remain basic; a situation aggravated by populations swollen in many places as people return from cities where they had gone for work.

In the cotton and textiles sector, the clothing manufacturers’ association of India says 72% of small businesses have received less than 25% of payments due for April 2021, and have had more than half their orders cancelled. This is devastating and worsens the situation for workers threatened with job losses even as their families fall ill. Underpayment has been a problem since the early stages of the pandemic and workers around the world have lost jobs and income. NDTV India has reported that entire families may be wiped out by the latest stage of the pandemic, particularly in those areas that grow the cotton and where workers have taken refuge when they leave the cities after losing their job.

The campaign by Transformers Foundation and Cotton Diaries calls for global textile businesses to pay their bills. The crisis will worsen without help: without workers, crops – including food crops – will not be sown. Food will not be shipped.

Meanwhile, the UK government is busy slashing aid which could support vaccine programmes whilst simultaneously buying up more doses for the UK against WHO recommendations. WHO says that rich countries should support fair access to vaccines globally as the pandemic will not end until the world is vaccinated.

Former International Development Secretary, the Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, today told Channel 4 News that ‘this is the worst possible time to cut international aid.’ The need is so much greater than normal and what money is given comes out of slashed budgets affecting basic health services.

People in the Central Bylines region can help, both by supporting charities that support Indian workers and by asking British retailers to pay their suppliers on time. They can also urge retailers to support their supply chains in other ways, including by making donations.

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