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India

COVID-19 And The Fault Lines of India's Unequal Society

The pandemic and the response to it threaten to exacerbate entrenched economic and social disparities.

Lining up for rice rations in Kolkata.
Lining up for rice rations in Kolkata.
Sandeep Kumar

NEW DELHI — Like most healthcare workers, my profession puts me at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Statistically, however, my risk of acquiring a serious infection is reasonably modest and the probability of dying from it quite low. After all, I practice medicine at a premier hospital in the wealthiest nation on this planet and have access to cutting-edge medical care, was I to develop this infection. It also gives me some comfort to realize that my family has the cushions to ward off any financial hardships, if I were to succumb to this ailment.

I recently came across the news of a man in West Bengal, who allegedly died at the hands of the police when he went to procure milk for his children during the lockdown. He perished, I imagine, uncelebrated for this seemingly selfless act. Being a father myself, I wonder what happened to his children. Countless such tragedies are likely unfolding across the globe, hidden in the available statistics. While it appears that the virus is socially blind, affecting the rich and poor alike, the reality is that the burden of the pandemic and measures to mitigate its effects have fallen heavily on the world's poor.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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