COVID-19 pandemic and the existential crisis

    14-Jul-2020
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Manas Chakraverty
The most significant challenge posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our society has been the question of survival and revival of lives and businesses at large, across sectors. It has affected all sections of society be it the petty daily-wage earners or the big business tycoons, the fear of existential crisis have become very poignant. The poor and downtrodden have accepted it and are frustrated. They have realized this and are now venturing new vistas of earnings  by restarting with alternative vocations for survival in the agriculture , horticulture, livestock farming sectors, and trading of those items in the local markets, to name a few.  But the concern hovering this existential crisis is asymptomatic in case of the well-to-do, elite class and the big business tycoons although it is crushing this class of the society in their subconscious minds but expressing their helplessness has now become a question of surrendering, which they feel is going to deter their mental and emotional resilience to take those knocks and come out winner.
If we look at the education scenario now, we see that after the Cl-XII state board results are out although the CBSE Cl-XII results are yet to be declared, there is a beeline of students browsing all possible institution details’ for seeking admission and off-course taking online admissions maintaining the laid-down guidelines of social distancing.
This is a very positive sign of hope and expectation of a normal world post the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. But the fact is hard from reality that what the future holds for a progressing nation like India to look like is anybody’s guess.  Be it the medical fraternity, the government machinery, the apex body-WHO, no one has a clear roadmap and all are in a state of agony about the future of higher education in various fields other than medical and paramedical courses where an increase in demand for those courses and subsequent filling up of seats in various paramedical courses have been witnessed.
It also needs mention that in the month of May the WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ opening remarks on the World Health Assembly held on 18th May, 2020 has marked this year as the International Year of the Nurses and Midwives in recognition of their fight on the frontline against COVID-19. On this occasion WHO also published the World Nursing Report which states that the world is facing a shortfall of 6 million nurses to achieve and sustain universal health coverage. So it also provides a roadmap for the governments (both central and state) to invest in nursing and fill up the gap and progress towards universal health coverage going by the WHO tagline Health for all .
Coming back to the issue of pandemic crisis, it is only one section of people in our society who seem to be in a very comfortable position financially , are those lucky lots who serve the government departments, both state and central government employees.
There is no denying the fact that those in the forefront fighting this pandemic the doctors , the paramedical staff, the medicos, the police and their allied departments who are working tirelessly risking their lives deserve appreciation. But frankly speaking,  there are a lot of apprehensions among people as to what percentage of them are working religiously for that cause.
The reason for apprehension among people about the integrity of the doctors arises from the fact that many patients who were quite fine and healthy before getting infected with the virus got admitted and died in the hospital within a day.
Now it is understood that the nature of deterioration in this virus-attack gets progressively worse in a short duration of a day, but when the person dying of this virus is not allowed to be cremated and needs governmental intervention for cremation, one needs to ponder on the fact whether these patients at all got any treatment by the medico’s or the treatment given was simply a eyewash  and were allowed to die fearing contamination of this deadly disease, atleast at the initial days of the spread of this virus. These are not allegations but a section of public perception hunting the minds of general public who are in a state of confusion with half-baked information.
Now the question of this crisis situation has surfaced from the fact that due to this pandemic the economy has crippled countries across. This is a cycle where the role of every individual counts. Because, if the masses are suffering from job-loss, business activity coming to a state of standoff, than it is obvious that it will have a strong negative impact on the countries’ economy as a whole  and an individual’s financial condition, to be precise.
In India, Prime Minister announced a total lockdown in just a overnight’s notice in an unplanned manner without any action plan and blueprint or any consultation with the States as to what would happen to the lakhs of workers including migrant working class in the unorganized sector who form the backbone of our Indian economy. They were left  with no option after losing their jobs and running out of money for survival, started their homewards journey, few hundreds of kilometres away and some thousands of kilometres away in whatever mode of transport they could avail, which reminds one of the mass exodus the country witnessed after partition. Under the above circumstances it is imminent that the poor masses are going to experience a sense of hopelessness leading to frustration and depression if there is no definite roadmap from the government machinery so far as their financial rehabilitation through gainful employability is concerned. Having said that it also goes same for the support machinery sponsored by the government comprising M-NGO’s, NGO’s and Self Help Groups in exploring new vistas for gainful employment and earnings for the masses in the rural and semi-urban areas in the field of agriculture and livestock farming and other prospective areas where gainful employment can be created.
Another important angle of thought put forward by the intelligentsia which has made situation worse is an epidemic of information , in which anyone gets to say anything , credible or not, to advance whatever agenda.
A new survey on public perceptions of the COVID-19 crisis finds a national consensus that protecting public health should come ahead of opening the economy.
Everyone is optimistic of the fact that things are going to get normal in a month or two and the wheel of progress will gear-up at an accelerating speed to make good the losses incurred due to this pandemic.
But the reality is far from truth if we go by the observation coming out from the WHO Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ latest speech on 29th June, 2020 where he said that the world wants to get on with their lives but the hard reality is that – this is not even close to being over . He emphasized on greater stories of resilience, humility and generosity in the months ahead. Even PM Modi’s latest address to the nation hinted on similar lines where he has announced the extension of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till the end of November.
So it is clear that till this year-end the devastating financial setback due to this COVID-19 avalanche is going to cripple the nation and it is time one should ponder about one’s existential crisis. The pandemic has clearly disclosed the severe poverty that threatens to disrupt the lives of the poor masses in millions. Also we are yet to hear of any action plan from the central or state government as to what would be the roadmap of economic revival, what will happen next if the pandemic recedes into the backdrop and life returns to normal . The need of the hour is a much-needed financial reform emphasizing on  the revival of the rural and semi-urban economy that is being speculated about for a long period amidst the bureaucratic labyrinth.
(The writer is based in Guwahati and can be reached at [email protected])