Mobilizing the Streets
COVID-19 & Informal Labor in India
This interview was conducted on April 13, 2021. By the end of that month, India had entered a period of acute crisis. The medical system had collapsed due to high incidence of disease and under-investment in the public health system had led to the death and suffering of millions of people.
Shalini Sinha, her husband, and her special-needs child were all hospitalized in the ICU. They emerged from it at the end of May 2021.
In our conversation, Shalini focuses on three things: the lessons learned from the excessively short lockdown enforced in India on the evening of 24 March 2020 that destroyed poor peoples’ livelihoods and forced more than 10 million people to try to return home to the villages and small towns, bringing the virus with them; relating the public health crisis to the crisis of employment, not as the bipolar Liberal Conservative issue that plays out in the Global North, but as the conjoined crisis of health and sustenance that plays out in the Global South; and finally, the gendered nature of the crisis where women have paid a much higher price in terms of their employment opportunities and burdens of care-work at home.
For further reading on the topic, you can consult Krishnendu Ray’s publication