The lockdown announced without warning by the government on the 13th of March, 2020, immediately threw the country into chaos: citizens were forced indoors by the mandate, with very little access to goods and services, and despite the provision for “essential services,” mobility was restricted by the stringent rules imposed with regards to movement in and around the city. As in any crisis, those marginalised by gender, class and caste were the most profoundly hit — and soon it became evident that government intervention, by way of providing supplies and resources to bridge the gap, would be haphazard, and in many cases, completely absent. Women were trapped in abusive households with very little recourse to help in the face of domestic violence; the transgender community largely dependent on begging and sex work found themselves with no income, as did the entire workforce of domestic workers; and the considerable migrant community of Bengaluru were faced with the horrific choice to either stay in the city without any prospects of earning a livelihood, or somehow, undertake a fraught, dangerous, journey back to their home towns on foot, with very limited options for transport, which the government was appallingly slow to organise.
In the face of this complete breakdown of normalcy, civil society stepped into fill the gap, though this was an immense challenge, given the constraints of the circumstances such as not being able to move outdoors, and the mandatory social distancing measures. In our research, attempting to map and understand the experiences of those who contributed to these valuable and necessary efforts, we found time and time again, volunteers found themselves having to compensate for lack of existing infrastructures, which might have reasonably been expected of an urban capital with aspirations to the smart city. In this project, we have, through interviews and research, sought to capture how the prodigious efforts by individuals, non-government and community-based organisations, expose how the pandemic only exacerbated long-existing gaps in infrastructure, highlighting the already precarious existences of those marginalised by the city. This microsite based on a number of interviews conducted by Senjuti Sangia, our RA, with a number of civil society organisations and individuals, captures a snapshot of how they responded to the crisis precipitated by the pandemic and the consequent lockdown.