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LONDON, United Kingdom — As some of fashion’s biggest names mobilise to curb the spread of the coronavirus, donating to relief funds and manufacturing surgical masks, Rana Ayyub, global opinions writer for The Washington Post and author of “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up," urges the industry to “lend a helping hand” to the thousands of poor migrant workers. Some of the world’s largest retailers are cancelling orders, jeopardising thousands of jobs.
“Labourers, migrants and workers who have been working in the garment industry are the unsung heroes of the fashion fraternity,” declared Ayyub on the latest episode of the BoF Podcast. “These hands have built some of the finest designs and right now they cannot feed their families.”
Ayyub expressed concerns regarding the 21-day lockdown imposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24th after images emerged of thousands of unemployed migrant labourers risking their lives by fleeing Delhi and Mumbai on foot, with little food or water, to head to their homes in the countryside.
Following reports that the police in India sprayed tear gas to disperse these workers defying the three-week lockdown, Ayyub travelled to Dharavi, Mumbai, one of the world’s largest slums and home to textile factories. It was here where she met impoverished families crammed into single rooms surviving on minimal portions of rice.
“I wanted to ask about social distancing but I felt like it was so obscene… because here I am a privileged person… wearing my N95 mask, wearing gloves and taking my hand sanitiser,” she said. “How do you talk about social distancing when there are eight people in one room with no water, with no sanitation, with no soap?”
As the global humanitarian crisis continues to escalate and millions of people across the globe are impacted during this time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, Ayyub underscored that it is time for fashion to come forward and support. “It’s an extraordinary time and it calls for an extraordinary reaction and I hope the fashion industry opens its heart to the people and the underprivileged,” she said.
Tune into this episode of the BoF Podcast as Ayyub lifts the lid on the challenges faced by India’s poorest population and the growing political unrest in Kashmir.
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