The year of living dangerously

Essay collection from ‘The India Forum’ chronicles the first year of India’s battle with the pandemic

AM | March 8, 2021


#migrant labour   #policy   #vaccine   #healthcare   #coronavirus   #pandemic   #Covid-19   #economy   #environment  


India and the Pandemic: The First Year
Essay from The India Forum
Orient BlackSwan, 335 pages, Rs 695


It’s about time for the first anniversary. Just around this time last year, we were wondering about the virus. We thought it is just one of those things that come and go; our life as we know it is bound to go on. Then we read some reports and rushed to buy a sanitizer but the chemist had run out of stock. That made us wonder if we were overoptimistic or others knew something we didn’t. To be on the safe side, we started avoiding crowded places and responding to a proffered hand with folded hands. The so-called Janata curfew awoke us in shock. Within a week of that, we were living inside a dystopian science-fiction film. The nightmare continued for months, and for all we know it is still continuing.

Unlike the pandemics of the old, the last one being of 1918-20, this was one where the state was going to have a central role. For the heavy toll over a year and unimaginable suffering around the world, the state can in retrospect offer many excuses. In the face of an enemy about which little could be said with certainty back then, any action could potentially invite criticism later. Be it masks, timing and extent of lockdown or vaccination, policymakers around the world have dithered here and there or acted but realized consequences later. India is no exception.

“Looking back, it is not so much India’s inability to prevent the large number of infections in 2020 that should be cause for regret as to how the country coped with the pandemic. There was an absence of community and a lack of humanity in how both the state and society responded to Covid-19. Collectively, the people were wrenched through an enormous amount of suffering which the country, when it looks back later at the events of 2020, will not be proud of,” write Faizi Ahamad, CJ Kuncheria and C Rammanohar Reddy in the introduction, setting the tone of the collection.

As these essays – written without the benefit of hindsight and published just when the crisis was unfolding – make it clear, many more lives could have been saved, much ground could have been prepared, and man-made tragedies like the labour migration could have been averted. Former health secretary K. Sujatha Rao, for example, had written the essay, ‘Coping with the Coronavirus: Are Indians Safe?’, when the lockdown was just a day old. She argued that India’s response was tardy in the face of rising evidence and three infections by February. Her year-old suggestions today make a painful reading.

As the lockdown closed work opportunities, tens of thousands of labourers left big cities and rushed home. They walked or cycled for hundreds of kilometres under a summer sun often without food supplies. They risked infection and some succumbed too. The special train services for them came later, and so did various relief measures. But the question remains if it could not have been foreseen. For women and children sleeping on an empty stomach by the side of a highway after the day’s walk, they must have wondered if the state machinery cared for them at all. Upendra Baxi and Harsh Mander’s essays analyse some aspects of the tragedy.

Two sections analyse the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown on the economy and the society, while the concluding section takes a larger view, with an eye on the future. The collection will be a handy ready-reckoner for researchers and concerned citizens alike for years to come.

For more: https://www.theindiaforum.in/article/india-and-pandemic-first-year
 

Comments

 

Other News

“World headed towards stagflation; India must take care of the poor”

As the post-pandemic fallout and geopolitical uncertainty slows down global economies and sanctions against some nations, energy crisis and inflation are adding to the troubles, India is projected to be decoupled from world economy and fare better. To check if this belief really holds water, in the latest

The changing nature of CSR in India

With the advent of globalization came a new set of challenges for corporations, notably the duty of ensuring the well-being of all stakeholders while also protecting the planet`s natural environment. Although we are dedicated to a faster and more inclusive rate of growth, it is equally imperative that we f

BMC commissioner Chahal conferred with hon. doctorate

BMC commissioner and administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal has been conferred with a Honorary Doctor of Science Degree (honoris causa) by Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Punjab. Chahal was conferred the degree during the 48th convocation of the University in Amritsar at the hands of Punjab

Sebi to have two-track approach on ESG

Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) aims to use a two-track approach on environmental social and corporate governance (ESG). Addressing a conference on ‘ESG for Atmanirbhar Bharat` in Mumbai, Sebi chairperson Madhabi Puri Buch said that that there should not be a single carbo

Accuracy more important than speed in news: Anurag Thakur

Presenting authentic information is the prime responsibility of media and that facts should be properly checked before they are put in the public domain, union minister of information and broadcasting Anurag Thakur has said. “While speed with which the information is transmitted is imp

FM concludes pre-budget consultations

Union minister for finance and corporate affairs Nirmala Sitharaman has concluded the pre-budget consultation meetings for Budget 2023-24 that were held from November 21 to 28 in the virtual mode. More than 110 invitees representing seven stakeholder groups participated in eight meetings sch

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter