To tackle COVID-19, the notion of democracy, civil liberties would be undermined and a stricter state control seems imperative.
The Pandemic of Covid-19 has it’s own version of challenges on Indian soil. Medically, almost everyone knows the symptoms and precautions. The time is to focus on other related peripheries. The outbreak of Covid-19 in India was reported in the month of January 2020. Since then the case according to the official figures stands – at the time of writing this article. On 22nd March PM Modi announced ‘Janta Curfew’ followed by the subsequent nationwide lockdown. The various challenges which Government and people, in general, can be summed up as under:-
Since the nationwide lockdown, the entire economy following the global trend has come to a standstill. Markets are closed, factories are temporarily shut down and the whole wheel of the economy came to a halt. The daily needs item like milk, vegetables, etc are available but on inflated prices as compared to regular days. People who could afford it made an advanced stock of essentials right from sanitizers, masks to flour, and pulses. This advance stocking made a shortage of commodities for the people who could not afford the stock of things and were at the receiving end. Work from home is a luxury which can’t be afforded by everyone and most of the people have to make them satisfied with no work at all. Daily wage earners like Rickshaw pullers, cab drivers, and daily laborers lost what was imperative for their survival i.e. their source of revenue generation. Industries experts have opined that the impact of COVID-19 would cost the salary cuts, job loss, and no or less employment generation and would take a long time to get the economy on its pace.
Since this is a global phenomenon, a harsh impact can be ascertained on international trade and forex. Due to job loss, an exodus of migrant labor was rampant in Metro cities like Delhi, and Mumbai way back to their home town. Govt. spending on medical facilities and welfare measure would end up as an burden on exchequer which might lead to surge prices and bulking in taxation. Raghuram Rajan (Ex- RBI Governor) in his blog leads us to think about the upcoming recession which would be more fatal than what we experienced in 2008.
Not denying the fact that the recession of 2008 was a demand-pull one, however, the economy did not come to a standstill and people were doing some work or other to contribute their part to the economy of the nation in toto. However, the circumstances have changed and almost entire economy has come to a standstill. A collective effort, rather than getting into religious debates (as floated over many news channels) is required to make the economy up and working.
The worst challenge experienced in Indian conditions was the religious color being given to a pandemic by print & electronic media. Social media also had its own contribution but the authenticity of their claim couldn’t be relied upon easily. A particular community was held as the perpetrator of the spreading the virus of COVID-19. Due to this portrayal of ulterior religious fanaticism the essence of nations unity has integrity is under the shadow of grim doubts. When history would be written, the deeds of such news channels would not be spared for good. Now, the question arises why it was at first allowed by the government for a mass gathering. Secondly, if someone is seen spreading the virus deliberately and not cooperating with authorities should be penalized in their personal capacities rather playing Sherlock Holmes to identify their caste, religion, etc. As seen through various videos uploaded on social media, many social contractors were found forcefully closing down the shops of people belonging to one particular community.
Another challenge posed in front of the people who opted to go back to their villages, resultant of job loss. The resident of various villages to secure their village from an outbreak decided to not let migrant workers visit their homes. In absence of any arrangement by government the question of survival has raised. In absence of awareness, people were seen having deep faith that the virus could be tackled by beating plates or lighting up diyas. In excitement, they completely forgot the notion of social distancing. I would not criticize PM Modi for this since he never said people to get on the roads in thick groups and create chaos on 22nd March and on 5th March. But in this case who should be held responsible for such an act? I leave this question to the conscience of the readers.
It’s not a hidden fact that the virus had reached the slum areas too. A lot of people residing in slum areas who work as domestic help in urban areas face several kinds of discrimination like not using their washrooms, removing slippers outside the home, dedicated utensils for their use. Now, these people are more prone to a new level of discrimination and humiliation in the name of precaution.
The outbreak and subsequent lockdown led to a crisis for political parties to spread their agenda and publicity. A lot of political party people were seen clicking pictures while delivering eatables to the needy. Of course, it’s a noble cause. However in the fit of showing their faces in the shutterbox, many were seen without mask or lowered it down so that their faces could be recognized by various media platforms. They might have forgotten that the mask was more important than marketing. Spokesperson on various news channels and news anchors find it quite challenging to keep the news reporting in line with the agenda of their respective political affiliations.
The unorganized labor forced who are left with no means of surviving will keep this lockdown period and less preparedness of the government to tackle pandemic and mass migration of laborers in their memory alive. A more prominent subject that might cost to the ruling government and could be a determining factor in the upcoming election agenda would be Health budget. Covid-19 has opened all knots to the doubts of health hazard preparedness of the nation. A small amount of budget spending could be an issue which other political parties would take up as their agenda.
To tackle such challenges of COVID-19, a collective effort of Government and people, supported by NGOs, charitable trust and religious institutions is imperative.
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