The unending projections of possible death caused by COVID-19 have predictably led to panic. Knee-jerk reactions by Governments and physicians alike and quick fixes have failed. Mathematical models have been proved wrong and nations have been busy putting the blame on someone or something. Economies have collapsed and even the venerable The Economist acknowledges that it is goodbye to globalisation. The picture is grimmer than what Dow Jones, Sensex or Nifty portray. Even robust economies are talking of the need to protect jobs for its own residents. There is increasing clamour for banning foreign workers.
Religious intolerance, which ought to have been put aside to fight the common enemy, has actually flared up and is being encouraged. We are inventing new enemies to crush and subjugate because the virus has proved difficult to tame.
Other forms of apartheid are beginning to raise their ugly head. Whites versus Blacks and the Coloured, Hindus versus Muslims, Muslims versus Jews, the Western world versus the Chinese and so on, are again dominant themes all across the globe. This part of fallout of the pandemic is only complicating the picture and making it murkier. We forget that the virus makes no such distinctions!
The divide between the haves and the have nots, always a thorny problem, has become sharper in the weeks since the flames of the pandemic spread to envelope the world. In India alone, the landless migrant labour, already living on the brink of penury, is being blamed for many of the nation’s problems, the least of which is a further spread of the disease.
Their reverse migration from urban centres of employment to their villages has become something of an administrative nightmare in a country under forced and extended lockdown. It has dealt a body blow to all that the Government of the day has been doing, to manage the pandemic.
United States of America and India, two of the largest democracies in the world have also become great examples of the failure of Federal System of governance. Newspapers are full of daily spats between the Federal Governments of the States of the Union and the POTUS in USA. In India, there is a clear divide between the Central Government on the one hand, and the BJP-led versus non-BJP Governments of the States on the other. States have been defying Central diktats and agitating for greater freedom to make policies to control the fallout of the pandemic. Instead of putting their heads together, a lot of time and energy are being spent in constant bickering.
All development work in India has come to a grinding halt. Not only is there no labour available to continue with the projects, there is a profound lack of funds available to continue with them. The effects of these suspended projects will be all too obvious in the coming months and years.
While capital defence budget has been seeing regular curbs in the preceding few years, it is likely to be slashed further under the circumstances if some of the statements of powers that be, are any indication. Even the Education Sector, reeling under recent unrest in many Indian Universities, is crippled after the prolonged lockdowns. Suspension of various Labour laws is another worrisome development.
All said and done, we seem to be heading for a time when the living might well envy the dead.
It will take wise heads and sane policies to bring the country out of the quagmire. Both at the moment seem to be in short supply. Let us hope the drought of good policies ends soon. Amen!