Activists tracking the reported deaths during the lockdown to control COVID-19 said on Saturday that over 300 people had lost their lives owing to starvation, exhaustion, suicide, accidents and other non-virus related reasons.
Tracking news reports in English and Hindi primarily, as well as in regional languages such as Kannada, Telugu and Tamil, the group found that 310 deaths had occurred from March 19 — when an auto-rickshaw driver in Bengaluru died by suicide owing to financial distress — till Saturday.
“News reports tracked during the ongoing lockdown suggest that more than 300 people died because of the lockdown: as a result of hunger, financial distress and exhaustion, due to police atrocities for lockdown violations, and inability to get timely medical attention. There have been a staggering number of suicides as well, caused by fear of infection, loneliness, lack of freedom of movement, and alcohol withdrawal during the lockdown,” the group of activists and academics said in a release.
Among the deaths connected to the pandemic but non-virus related, 34 were due to starvation and financial distress, including the inability to sell farm produce; 20 were caused by exhaustion, including while walking long distances to reach their homes or standing in lines for ration; and 73 were from suicides due to fear of testing positive for the novel coronavirus and fear of loneliness.
Aman, an assistant professor of legal practice at Jindal Global School of Law, who is part of the project, along with researcher and Ph.D scholar Kanika, said the aim of the tracker was to keep these deaths in public memory. “These deaths should be counted while assessing the success or failure of the lockdown,” he said.
Thejesh G.N., a Bengaluru-based engineer on whose website thejeshgn.com the tracker can be found, said the real numbers would be higher as the tracker could not capture all the news reports of such deaths in the country, and news organisations would not be able to report on every such incident.
“Our goal is to put a spotlight on these deaths. While we are focusing on the COVID-19-related deaths, we are neglecting the other deaths,” he said.