Epidemic and Economy; A New Normal

In a nutshell,while in India as a country we did manage to control the epidemic initially to some extent but in the process we seem to have managed to badly damage the health of our economy.

To top it all as a nation we have managed to display total insensitivity to the needs and well being of about 12 crore migrant labourers by leaving them to to fend for themselves and face hunger, lack of jobs, lack of income and chronic poverty in midst of this epidemic.

Granted some state Governments and central agencies and are trying to be of help but given the enormity of the situation what is being done is too little and too late. And then there is so much of politics that is being played.

Contrast it with the silent service that many individuals cutting rich, poor and middle class and social service organisations are doing to help the migrant workers. There is no politics there. Yes there are exceptions and some worthy fellows don’t lose an opportunity to put their picture providing food and succour to the needy.

One sad lesson that we learn again and again is that while our policy makers do know what they do – they are the ones who do – they do not have much idea of the consequences of their actions on the different sectors of the economy, segments of the industry and section of society.

This “Tala Bandi” like the earlier “Note Bandi” is another example.

Some arm chair critics like this writer would argue that such uninformed and insensitive decisions, makes them unfit to ruling the country? Speculation is on whether the Government in power would lose the next round of elections in 2024?

However, most of them except hard core born opponents of the ruling party would agree that as of now there does not seem to be any alternative to the current ruling dispensation. Situation might change over time.

Such question arises as there seems to be a lack of an agreed frame work for developing coherent policies and programmes.

Who would replace the current ruling dispensation? Looking at the position that the opposition parties are undertaking answer as of now seems that no one.

If one “person” in the ruling party is shown as the saviour of all our ills, the opposition can not put forward the case of a “family” as the saviour of all our ills.

This person versus family politics will neither get aspiring political class power to rule nor will it be of any help to ameliorate the damage done to the economy.

Opposition for the sake of opposition will not work.

The on going TV drama debate of 1000 Congress buses to take migrant labourers from Delhi border to different districts in UP is not going to do any good to the image of the Congress party. Instead it will harm.

If the buses were summoned from Rajasthan why did the Rajasthan Government not provide such services from cities in Rajasthan to various destinations in UP? Why could Rajasthan not send such buses to Mumbai ?

All political parties both the ruling and in opposition are playing games and indulging in a war of perceptions.

But seriously, is this the time to do so?

While this is going on a new normal is emerging and the political class seems to be oblivious of the same.

The Editorial in HT (19/5) argues “Remember that India imposed the lockdown when there were just a little less than 500 cases. It is opening up when there is a clear surge. The lockdown, as this newspaper has argued, was yielding diminishing returns on the health front and was causing economic devastation of an unprecedented scale. The relaxations are, therefore, legitimate.”

“India will now have to learn to live with this contradiction, between the rising number of cases and relaxations and resumption of economic activity. Adjusting to this “new normal” will not be easy.”

There will be more panic as more and more people test positive.

“Citizens can do their bit by abiding by social distancing norms, wearing masks and taking precautions, while the State must ensure that gains on the health front are not squandered, and the balance between lives and livelihoods is managed as well as possible…”

But is there no choice, concludes the Editorial.


With inputs from Dr DC Sah, Professor Emeritus at MPISSR Ujjain. He was earlier, Professor & Director at M.P Institute of Social Science Research Ujjain, Associate Professor at CSS Surat and GIDR Ahmedabad.


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