Firstly, they forced us to stay inside home, and now forcing everyone to step out of house and bring back normalcy. The Government could have done better, with the resources it has at its realm. On January 30, India announced it’s the first case of COVID-19 when a student from Wuhan returned to his native in Kerala. It took a while for the Government to realise that India could be the next pandemic hit China, however, security checks were placed at airports instantly. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that a pandemic is upon the world. By this time India already had 500+ cases and the markets were already testing the floor bands, in anticipation of what future had for us. It came down to a decision, a critical one – whether the Government should care about the people or the economy?The decision seemed pretty clear back then, “save the people, the economy isn’t important” cried the nation, and thereby on March 22, Prime Minister declared that India would be locked down for 21 days as a safety precaution. The lockdown felt successful when Government officials declared how the doubling rate was decreasing. However, as good as it might sound, the fact was swept to the corner that the cases were still rising, though at a slower pace, yet rising every day, even when the country was locked down.
Today after a series of ‘Lockdown’ totalling to 80 days and phases of ‘Unlock’, we rank fifth in the world – both in terms of GDP as well as COVID-19 cases. This entire time, neither did we protect the people, nor the economy! Our eyes were glued to the virus tracker and other diversions, however, there exists no tracker to explain how badly the economy was being hurt. It took a long time to realise that if COVID-19 doesn’t kill us, probably the economy will, slowly, over time. In a series of lockdowns, we first tried to protect people, but the economy suffered. So, we tried a revival of the economy through relaxations, however, now the people are suffering. First, the cases were slower, but the economy tumbled like 9/11, now the economy is gradually recovering, however, the cases are on the rise. We have been locking down the economy, and unlocking the people, while we really should be doing the opposite. The harmony lies in locking out the people and yet running the economy in neutral gear. Easier said than done, Government cannot do this alone, it has to be every individual’s initiative. The COVID-19 virus is going to stay around for a long time, probably its nature’s way of schooling us how we ought to live. So, we will have to find our way of living along with it.
The virus has maximum impact when people gather in large – workplaces, places of worship, entertainment programs, shopping complex and malls, vegetable markets, slums, travel junctions like airports, railway stations and bus stands, public transports, schools and colleges, community events and weddings, etc. Workplaces are capable of managing themselves. Small and Medium Enterprises have a limited number of employees where everyone knows each other personally and it’seasier to keep everyone in check. Large Corporations have the resources to spend to keep a tab on their employees. Many corporates already have work from home facilities and policies. If the Government provides a few incentive or relaxations, corporates would happily the rest on their own. Retail shops can also get crowded, however, with sanitization rules and strict vigilance by local authorities, this too can be managed. Workplaces follow a discipline and therefore, with rules and co-operation, it’s practical to keep them running. The places that do not have a written discipline are those which relate to entertainment, worship, events or shopping. 2020 doesn’t seem to be a year for events or entertainment. After almost two decades of celebrating the rise of numerous social media and mobile entertainment, it’s probably time we stick there for the rest of 2020 if we are desirous of a better new year. Goods transport should continue in the ordinary course, however, passenger travelling will have to be restricted for the rest of the year. Essential services have to be made available in every ward of the city, to ensure people don’t travel across the city. Besides, citizens also have to give up their non-essential needs. Community events and weddings, needless to say, will have to be either amongst close ones or avoided altogether this year.
Schools and colleges probably will have to stay online, instead of campus. The internet-friendly generation won’t find e-learning difficult, however, the parents would have a hard time accepting it. BYJU’s has been depicting this scenario in its advertisements for a long time now. The examination system of our country was long due for a big revival. Now, it’s time to overhaul the same and make it more merit-based than the scores. Students have to be promoted without stamping them with marks and ranks and so will the corporates have to while hiring them. Back in days when education wasn’t as prevalent as today, people were hired and trained on the job. Not that the students aren’t capable, most of them need additional training and some guidance from experienced, to make them suitable for the job. Candidates are anyways trained, a little more efforts can result in a better world.
The rest is Government’s job, slums have to be taken care of, public healthcare systems have to be stronger, and the authorities have to act as a public guide, not power-laden offices – not something new that we ask for, it’s just more necessary than ever now. Elections need to be more organized with scheduled time defined for categories of voters. Tax authorities may not provide exemptions, however, least they can do is to relax the filing and payment norms. The government needs to do more than merely ‘announcing’ campaigns, it needs to generate employment opportunities and provide incentive or subsidies for producing Chinese or other import substitutes locally. Calling for the ban is appropriate; however, we need good quality competitive alternatives first.
We have talked about sustainable living for years now. It’s time to implement it and rebuild a world where we are in harmony with nature.