India is facing the worst pandemic that humanity has witnessed in the recent history. The number of cases of corona virus infections is on the exponential rise despite cumulative efforts put in by citizens, organisations and the Governments at the Centre and States. Despite the colossal efforts to contain this pandemic and minimise its effects on human beings and economy, on war footing, the rampant proliferation is not coming under control. The nation is staring at a major human tragedy and humongous economic recession. The question today is “will the life be same post this pandemic”?
This unique event of the millennium generates a grotesque picture of desperation, misery, recession and permanent damage to our dreams of a prosperous 21st century paradigms of exorbitant, abundance and opulence with background of five trillion dollars economy. However defying the gloom, India does have some takeaways as well, which should afford us an opportunity to resurrect our lives into a better living culture preached and purported by our ancient RISHIs. The same is available in our numerous scriptures, i.e Vedas, Puranas and Upanishad etc, This coded life style will lead us to a healthier and richer beings with much higher levels of satisfaction. We were made to believe that all our ancient systems are only a myth and the actual meaning of progress came to this world only post industrial revolution from the west.
Today the immediate imperative is to fight this war against covid-19 virus. This war is being fought by nation with the medical fraternity of doctors and paramedic staff at the helm, supported by others like security personals, logistic supply chain personals and the Government administration. In this fight against Corona virus, we need to take immediate proactive steps. They are to ensure enough availability of PPEs, masks including N95 masks, testing kits and ventilators. The industry in private sector, public sector or even defence should be urged upon with incentives to ensure that not only domestic demand is made up but we should be able to export as well, for our future diplomatic gains. The monumental increase in production capacity of drugs like hydroxychloroquinine and Paracetamol etc, are a case in point.
Administration, at all levels, must ensure medical protection to medical teams providing them with requisite equipment i.e PPEs, N95 masks etc. These doctors and paramedics are our REVERED CORONA WARRIORS. Enough testing kits and treatment Drugs and vital medical equipment must be made available to them to treat patients. Enough hospital beds should be requisitioned for chronic patients. Schools, stadiums, hostels, hotels, Railway coaches and community centres should be equipped with adequate facilities to quarantine and treat mild to moderate patients. Physical protection against goons, the violators of discipline and intimidators should be ensured for all medical staff. Finally, the nation should go down in front of these Corona Warriors in gratitude, wherever, they are seen.
Secondly, nation must look after the daily wagers and migrant workers in our unorganised sector, who are jobless due to closure of industry, services and routine handiworks because of imposition of lockdown. It is the responsibility of the nation to ensure that this set of citizens is not abandoned just because we do not have a formal data about them. These daily wagers are the backbone of India’s services sector which has predominance in contribution to our GDP. At this crucial situation of complete lock down, the compensatory wages must flow into their bank accounts whether from employer or from the government to survive. It may not be possible for India to follow USA and other EU Nations model , where in, USA has announced two trillion dollar package for giving $1,200 to each registered citizen. What the Government of India can do, is to ensure a shelter (RAAIN BASERA), two meals and a sanitized environment for these workers to hang around till the lockdown lasts. Any infirmity in this arrangement by administration will lead to exodus of migrant workers for their natives or for search for a job defeating the purpose of lockdown and promote transmission of covid-19.
Thirdly, as 90% of our population is home bound today , nation must initiate an immediate action to ensure that supply of food items and FMCG is not interrupted. There is an urgent need to ensure that production of food items including all FMCG items, required in daily life, is not hampered. The supply chain of these items is efficiently regulated by the administration to avoid any kind of shortages, hoarding tendencies. The essential items must reach the consumers smoothly at their doorsteps The administration needs to study the bottlenecks of the entire chain. Each bottleneck has to be cleared in a deliberate manner ensuring full safety of work force involved in it, following the tenets of social distancing and other forms of protection. This must take into account all stages. From the crop harvesting in the fields or goods manufactured in large industry or MSMEs, must reach the storage houses, distribution points and the retail outlets. The selective retail outlets should be given responsibility to ensure doorstep delivery on phone on an e-platform. To ensure this, the administration will have to ensure that a fool proof and Corona safe transport policy is in place with adequate corona safe guards.
POST CORONA PENDIMIC SCENARIO
Once the fight against Corona virus is on, the nation needs to prepare for post Corona scenario as well. The post Corona scenario may not be the same as pre Corona fate. However, the lessons this crisis has brought to the fore, have to be seriously studied and acted upon for future calamities.
Firstly, the major drawbacks in our health care system have been exposed. All shortcomings should be documented and there should be task force to study the lessons thrown up up by this disaster to formulate a renewed Healthcare system involving private sector, government departments, NGO, Charity organisations. All religious organisations, irrespective of religion, are cash rich. They must be asked to follow RSR (Religious Social Responsibility) to run charity hospitals for economically weaker sections with state of art equipment. They can also reap the benefits of medical tourism for the patients from other countries for remaining viable ,on the lines of corporate hospitals as well.
Secondly, task force should be organised at Niti Aayog in conjunction with Commerce Ministry and other relevant departments to identify, document and assess the daily wages workers in informal and unorganised sectors. Measures to improve their work culture must be put in place. The technology should be used in terms of Aadhaar (UIDAI), Jan Dhan Yojana and bank accounts etc, should be made compulsory to get monetary benefits from the government.
Thirdly, a task force comprising of Agriculture Ministry and relevant departments of Commerce ministry and Consumer Forums should be made to study the supply chain system. Reforms, at all individual stages, should be suggested and implemented so that farmers are facilitated to produce more and their earnings are not hijacked by middle men. The transport system, storage facilities and accounts of earnings should also be streamlined to ensure greater efficiency.
In this leisure time forced upon by the lock downs, we all should relax, cool our minds, enrich our souls and introspect about our inefficient mechanical life. Our introspection, about our own business and life, will let us recognise the pitfalls in our inefficient dealings, superfluous and infructuous transactions that we do every day. This would increase the productivity, add spice and zing to life. Finally, we should thank the lockdown for bringing us close to nature with pollution free atmosphere, clear waters and clear sight of mountain ranges with beautiful chirping Birds around us. This has afforded us to spend quality time with our families, spend time at home playing Carom, Ludo, cards, table tennis and cracking jokes with the children.
BRIGADIER (dr) VIJAY SAGAR DHEMAN is a defence and strategic affairs expert and is founder director of INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR J&K STUDIES AND ANALYSIS (IIJSA).