In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government, led by Narendra Modi, imposed a stringent lockdown with only four hours notice. It paid no attention to the millions of migrants who work on a temporary basis in Indian cities. Most lost their livelihoods as a result of the lockdown, and millions sought to return to their native villages. At the same time, the rural economy confronted its own difficulties caused by the lockdown. The relief that the Modi government offered to the large numbers of poor people who had been adversely affected by its response to COVID-19 was limited and poorly delivered. The episode showed the lack of responsiveness of Indian democracy to the needs of working people and the failures of development. Yet Modi's particular brand of authoritarian populism worked so well that a government displaying very little compassion retained strong popular support.

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