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Not all is bad with Corona

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HIMADRI CHAKRABARTY
HIMADRI CHAKRABARTY
Phd Student at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

While news channels are abuzz on the number of infected and deceased people out of Corona virus, precautions to be taken against it and the importance of “social distancing”, the egoistic virus must be feeling unwelcomed, all across the world. This is similar to how many of the intruders felt when the colonies were looted of all wealth and resources. However, on most occasions once the intruders retreated facing the barrage of protests, they left behind a trail of some positivity, like Indians picked up English from the British. Similarly, the Corona virus will unknowingly have important contributions in how the society and policymakers behave henceforth.

The forced behavioural change (somewhat akin to Nudge propounded by the Noble laureate in Economics, Prof. Richard Thaler) will do wonders especially among the large part of rural youth in developing nations like India. The simple habit of washing the hands with soap or sanitizer is surely not going to fizzle out once the Corona recedes. This might be helpful in curbing the common infections and diseases in India like flu, dysentery and cholera. The Corona fear and the concerted efforts put by the Governments and media will ensure that negligence for cleanliness will reduce. In this respect, it is important such campaigns persist even after Corona leaves the shores.

Fundamentally, the behaviour of the policymaker would also be affected as it realizes the increasing need for stepping up health expenditure in India with a large rural setup. A meagre 2% of GDP being spent on health would be realized as inadequate as the country faces newer contingencies. The passing of the buck to the states and the debates focussing on whataboutery will be replaced by constant references to the damages that a virus could make. Any kind of revisions to health budget would mean compromising on short-run populism but would ensure better preparedness and control for the future.

This draws close comparisons to a popular concept of sustainable development, in the context of climate change too. While social distancing is being practiced worldwide, global pollution has reduced significantly. Moreover, many of the marine-dwellers like dolphins have started heaving a sigh of relief owing to less traffic. Given the epic unanticipated damages caused by Corona virus, the policymakers would realize the next big elephant in the room is climate change. If the countries do not respond through stricter norms on violation of climate change objectives, not only newer viruses would be born but human inhabitation on the planet would cease to exist. Thus, the Corona virus would ring alarm bells in policymakers for the need to ensure climatic balance for a sustained human life.

The virus has surprisingly kept constant political bickering in India away from the national scene. The oft-quoted “co-operative federalism” has got reflected from time to time as the states and the Center are making coordinated policies for the national welfare. As the Center-State unity improves, the virus allows a realization of the lesson that policies are more effective and far-reaching if they are made through inclusion and not in silos. There have been instances before where dirty politics have been played on the lives lost at the Line of Control. But the virus has certainly brought views to a common platform. As the Corona virus is unabashedly unbiased in its ability to infect individuals, politicians certainly are trying to look like one united family speaking the same voice.

Finally, the Corona phobia has brought the family back home together. The child suddenly has got his long-awaited wish to spend the entire day with his parents who have turned working professionals from home. There is more cacophony in the rooms of the old parents as there are more voices in the house. With the busy and ruthless corporate schedule being brought to a halt, the virus has ensured that older hobbies and passions of working members can be cultivated and nourished. While “spending quality time with family” has become a cliché, the virus has actually made it into a reality.

Notwithstanding the imminent loss of life, jobs and national wealth due to the catastrophic Corona, it certainly can be treated as a parable. The biggest lesson that it is going to teach us is the importance of time to act, react and not to protract. The idea of “social distancing” allows us to reflect on how lives over livelihood continue to be precious and policies should be made in the required precedence. It drives home the point that much of our lives has been spent as parasites of material pleasure but comes to a standstill at the altar of a virus. Even though William Wordsworth’s lines from the Ode to Duty, “Me this unchartered freedom tires, I feel the weight of chance desires” might trouble us from time to time, we can still draw solace from the fact that “Not all is bad with Corona”.

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HIMADRI CHAKRABARTY
HIMADRI CHAKRABARTY
Phd Student at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
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