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The Locust Swarm and Its Impact on the Daily Wagers

2020 as a year has been extremely unstable in terms of various events that keep unfolding. And keeping up with this fashion, India is now presented with the new issue of locust swarms. Locusts are a species of grasshopper that are known for the agricultural devastation that they cause. Understanding them is simple, they have two types of behaviour-

When they are in solitary, they are harmless and behave as normal grasshoppers. However, when they are forced to group together due to threats imposed by nature, they adapt a gregarious phase which has terrified the agricultural sector for centuries. In this phase, they breed abnormally fast, engage in rapid movements, and possess a varied appetite. India in particular is dealing with desert locusts, a variety that is so threating that in worst case scenarios can pack between 40 and 80 million locusts into less than half a square mile. Each locust can eat about its weight in plants daily.

Taking into consideration all the facts aforementioned and applying some basic math, it is pretty evident that the worst-case scenario is going to be catastrophic for India. The Hindu reported that so far, the locusts swarms have already attacked about 90,000 hectares of land in Rajasthan alone. The experts say that as many as 7 states (such as Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra) face possible threats. Indian authorities have blamed Pakistan for not spraying pesticide to get rid of the leftover locusts from last year. Rabi crop harvesting is over and hence the swarm which is still immature and in search for food pose a threat so large that India has not faced in decades. Nonetheless efforts are being made to avert this problem. But amidst all this what does it mean for the daily wagers of India?

Apart from lockdown being already hard enough on the daily wage earners, there is a bigger problem that possibly awaits them. Many wagers are returning from cities to their rural hometowns. These are the same homes that they left in the first place because majority of their work was agricultural here. If the swarms endanger their crops, then their final hope of basic stability will be lost, and they will be back to the miserable situation of unemployment that forced them out of the cities. The length and frequency of future lockdowns is unclear as the situation is still unfolding as of now. With this uncertainty, the government’s buffer stock and is also going to be taking a hit. Amidst all this crisis, the daily wage earners may be burdened beyond their capacities to handle. The dichotomy of the situation is definitely saddening as on one hand we have stories flooding the media about the daily wagers dying from starvation during this lockdown and on the other we have a possible threat to food security which already is failing to feed those in hunger.

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