Since March 24, 2020, India has been in a state of emergency due to the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases. India’s early lockdown compared to other countries in the West was a precautionary measure taken due to her high population density (which is close to 1200 persons/sq. mile), her lower person-to-bed ratio (which is 1/1000), and her poor sanitary conditions. So far, we have 12,759 cases and 420 deaths, but that number is steadily rising. Two days ago, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a state of lockdown until May 3rd, which would hold us in homes for 40 days at a stretch. But what does it look like in India?
Let me give you an up-close report. Since March 24th, all public places, religious places of worship, events, and gatherings of any sort have been banned. Added to this, all shops (excluding shops that sell consumables) are closed. All vehicular traffic is banned with the exception of use for medical emergencies or for those working in those sectors. One person per household is permitted to leave their homes to procure necessities, albeit, wearing a mask and carrying sanitizers. Flights, trains, and public transportation have ceased for the past few weeks.
What began as a great plan quickly turned into a logistical nightmare as, within days, milk manufacturers and vegetable wholesalers were seen dumping whole truckloads of these goods on empty streets due to states being sealed off from other states. Essential goods went missing, and these very same shops closed down. Delivery agents who were supposed to function under the center’s directives went missing or were beaten up for taking their vehicles out. Doctors who were on duty were stopped and harassed by local cops.
A week later, things were restored back to a somewhat normal estate. However, for several, the situation began to go south. In the northern part of India where class and caste politics abound, muslim and Dalit vendors were routinely beaten, humiliated, and threatened by local cops, to the point that one even committed suicide. Due to the loss of jobs and lack of money to pay rent, several working in the booming real-estate and food industry mass migrated overnight to their home towns, but were left stranded in scores of thousands at bus and train stations which were housing stationary vehicles. Several are reported to have died of sunstroke, trying to walk the miles to reach their home. Several others who reached their homes through much hardship were kicked out by relatives for fear that they may have contracted the dreaded disease.
The Indian economy has plunged nearly 2% in her GDP, further below the estimated hit from the recession this year. In our church, there are several who are unable to get a job now, or whose jobs are threatened due to this situation. Projects have been scrapped, and people have been sent home. The majority in India are barely surviving.
Amidst this flurry of confusion and commotion, our Prime Minister, not once but twice, engaged our nation on what has now come to be seen as a superstitious and ritual theatric of clapping, clanging plates, ringing bells, and sounding trumpets on one Sabbath evening, and lighting lamps and lights on another evening as a collective symbol of war and triumph over coronavirus. Those two events saw scores of ill-informed, yet well intended people take to the streets to mass perform these sight and sound shows, sometimes with added gusto and political chanting. More power to the virus!
To laugh or cry, we do not know, but pray we must. So, we at Anugraha called for a day of fasting and prayer the first Sunday when we were locked down on March 22nd, and have since joined two more fasts which were later announced by the RPCNA. For all these difficulties, the Lord reigns. His glory has taken a new form amidst the bustling silence, as birds of paradise flutter around our neighborhood trees, still singing His praises. The air is clean, the skies are blue, the sunsets are so stark, and the nights are cold even as we are approaching the peak summer. We cannot help but to wonder if the land is receiving her due Sabbath rest, and so are we, the busy Bangalore city. It has been a season of rest and reflection for many of us, as we deepen our family bonds and friendships during such a time as this.
Please continue to pray for us as follows:
- Pray for the financial situation for several in our church who are without jobs these past few months.
- Pray for protection of the elderly and vulnerable in our midst. We have several senior citizens and one vulnerable child in our midst.
- Pray for medical supplies to reach the pastor’s family as they have to take care of their son with multiple disabilities.
- Pray for church members who are in the midst of important life transitions as they wait upon the Lord to change travel situations.
- Pray for the gospel to spread in this season of trial. We have had three Facebook Live services which were attended by several unbelievers who would otherwise not enter into a church building. Please pray for the seed of the gospel to fall on good heart soils and bear fruit.