torsdag 16. april 2020

Under India's caste system, Dalits are considered untouchable. The coronavirus is intensifying that slur

Polamma carefully descends the 250 steps from the hilltop slum where she lives in southern India to walk one kilometer to the nearest grocery store. She is nine months pregnant and has four children to feed, but at the bottom of the steps community leaders of a dominant caste force her to go back empty-handed.

Since India went into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus on March 25, 57 families who live in Polamma's hilltop village in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, have been barred from going down the hill, even to purchase essentials such as food and medicine. The families are part of the Yanadi community, who work mainly as waste pickers and drain cleaners and who -- even before the coronavirus -- were segregated because of their caste. "We've been locked up here, like prisoners -- we live near a milk factory, and there is not a drop of milk for my children to drink. We are called dirty, and they say we spread the disease," said Polamma, who only goes by one name.