Saturday, September 18, 2021

Musings on pandemic impacts

Covid-19 is the much dreaded pandemic of recent times, for the mankind. The economy of the nations went haywire and the social life thoroughly disrupted. Fear psychosis gripped everywhere and the gloom hurled people into a deep depression and anguish. The herculean efforts countries put for making of vaccine and their governments in steering the public for safety were mammoth in dimensions. There were several stories of pain and grief where even the dead bodies of those succumbed to the disease were not handed over or even allowed to get the last glimpses by the kith and kin. Travels came to a complete halt or to a bare minimum and there were no events of celebrations anywhere.

Looking for long term strategies

The adverse economic effects of the pandemic are well articulated and researched upon starting from the point of GDP to employment earning of the individual. Doctors and scientists are still looking for long term strategies to cope with the new variants and their repercussions on the health of people.

Also Read : Peri Urban and Rurban Dreams

In this context every country has a story to offer and the politics has its own course, contentions and logic. Self projection and criticizing other countries some times for inadept handling of the problems have also come to be the order of the day for motives well known. India was criticized for handling the situation and vaccination by some countries in the west without any substance. Dr. Peter Hotez, a well known US scientist and pandemic expert, in a special interview to a TV channel  a few days ago strongly refuted such shallow criticisms. He has all prise for the technology, innovation and social response in India in meeting the challenges. Further he profusely showered praise on the leadership in handling the vaccination programme efficiently compared to other countries.

India’s performance was remarkable

Yes, India showed a remarkable performance account in meeting all the challenges of the pandemic adopting a proactive approach and social cohesion. It became an eyesore for china. Yet the negative effects of the pandemic are abundant and conspicuous. The exact nature and quantum of the impacts in a country like India need a thorough probe for further forward planning and policy inputs for meeting dire occasions. While assessing the negative impacts and loss incurred one needs to look at the positive impacts also. Many health workers and doctors pointed, that there was not only a ‘holiday’ for routine ailments at the hospitals’ door steps but also highly reduced instances of heart attacks, hyper/ hypoglycemia, and other infectious fevers.

Also Read : Growth, Poverty reduction and inequality

Agricultural sector sustained economy

We may go further deep and see that the share of agricultural sector is the only aspect that was conspicuous in this year’s national GDP. Economists say that this has only sustained the strained economy. There was an exodus of labourers from cities back to their villages, a phenomenon that marked with human suffering and despair. But it is to be noted that this resulted in adequate availability of labour in the village for agricultural activities. Human labour is an important input in Indian agriculture for boosting production and productivity.

This is not to argue that labour should not migrate to urban areas. Migration will always take place and should take place when there are more opportunities for employment and better earnings for individuals. However, this experience may open up a fresh thinking among local Panchayats to devise ways and means to sustain a few members who want to stay back in the village by creating opportunities for the latter. Funds from MNREGA are abundantly available and can be used for diversified development activities in the villages in a purposeful direction.

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Opportunity showed by pandemic

One more important aspect that cannot be overlooked is the opportunity showed by the pandemic for leisure and leisure time of the people both in rural and urban areas. Studies have shown earlier that the leisure time indirectly helps in improvement of individual health and well-being among many other positive things that can accrue.

A scientific enquiry into the impacts of the pandemic is immediately called for in India. This will set pace for meaningful interventions and policy inputs in future mainly for agriculture, health and education.

Also Read : Neglect of agricultural labourers

Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
The writer is a researcher, consultant and teacher. He worked at ASCI and had brief stints at Cornell University, IWMI and other international organizations.

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