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India’s migrant exodus foreshadows an economic crisis – By Murali Krishnan

The crisis caused by the lockdown, and the lack of preparation, are a stark reminder that the poorest in India are often missing from the national debate. It has also revealed just how dependent India has become on an underappreciated and underserved population. “The government … failed to imagine that there would be a point that migrants will start walking home,” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the Center for Policy Research, a New Delhi think tank.

The lockdown, and a global downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, are likely to erode the economic gains of the past three decades of which India has been proud. Opening the economy and embracing global markets has helped to pull millions of people out of poverty. But over the same period, inequality has widened “beyond imagination,” said Gautam Mody, general secretary of the New Trade Union Initiative, a coalition of independent trade unions.

“The so-called economic boom has not created, and cannot create, that many rich people who can either pull the economy up, or even create the economic activity you need to pull so many people out of poverty. After all, how many Antilias can you build, or how many Rolls-Royces can you buy?” Mody said, referring to the 27-story, billion-dollar Mumbai home of Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.

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