In a densely packed neighborhood of Delhi, hundreds of homeless people queued up this week as volunteers doled out rice and peas from a vat in the back of a van.
Only a handful of the people in the crowd wore masks. There were no hand sanitizers or washbasins in sight and no social distancing.
Volunteers say such scenes are playing out daily across India, as laborers and waste pickers – most of them homeless or too poor to afford a meal – are among the hardest hit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-week nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Most of the estimated 4 million-plus homeless people in India have had no way of earning a living since the lockdown began on March 25. With streets deserted, even begging is not an option.
Many wander aimlessly, some find refuge at homeless shelters where ranks of people sleep beside each other.
While the plight of India’s migrant workers has garnered headlines, with thousands forced to walk miles to reach home since the lockdown began, many aid workers say the millions of homeless in India face a bigger risk.