Redefining our Social contract in the wake of Covid Crisis
This week corona has crossed 6 million mark and death toll is rising everyday without showing any downslide. One thing the corona pandemic has taught us— is the position of lack of accountability our government holds in the times of crisis. Amid the media circus of witch hunting, lung exploding journalism on drug narratives; If you have somehow managed to know about the economic crisis, the farm-bills, jobloss and rising unemployment; Clearly, you’re somehow concerned about the country and the leadership.
We live in a country where election campaigns are run on trifle issues whereas the important issues like healthcare, education take a back seat. Year 2020 has distilled our vision on how a country’s leadership should act like and how our government actually acted. From the unplanned lockdown that led to far gone condition of migrant labourers to total collapse of health infrastructure that needed to be adressed— the advisory our leadership offered was on ” beating thaalis and lighting diyas”. More than 1.06 crore migrant workers, (of which approx. 1 crore travelled on foot during the lockdown), returned to their home states. Leave aside policy for their employment, our govt. does not even had data on how many of them died on the way home.
The recent ruckus created by our honourable representatives during monsoon session of parliament has further added fuel to it. The media— which is often regarded as the fourth pillar of demoracry proved to be nothing more than party mouthpieces. If this isn’t the time to redefine our social contact, then when is it going to be?
Revamping our health infrastructure.
Since the outbreak of Ebola in 2014, the front line health workers and researchers like Ashish Jha insisted on creating a better health infrastructure. Ebola was regarded as the ‘caregivers disease’ because the people helping patients were most vulnerable. Corona being not as deadly as Ebola but far more contagious should have been treated in similar manner. India’s expenditure on healthcare has always been low as compared to other countries, our neighbors Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives spend far more than us. In 2018, this expenditure was 1.28 percent of the GDP. A country with this huge population spending so little on health is worrisome.
Disinvestment Policies and their effect on Social contract.
The citizens of a state give the government authority to rule but also expect services in return. And therefore, politicians are to be held accountable if things go wrong. It is public responsiblity to hold politicians accountable and call them to question. Where does this contract break?— Most of the people who can afford send their children to private schools, take treatment in private hospitals, use their own vehicles, even look after their own security by hiring personal guards; and thus, don’t care to vote. Therefore, majority voters are poverty ridden and can’t think beyond two square meals. And thus, politicians get away so easily.
Disinvestment will further shed the little left accountability of the government. The privatisation policy hits the hardest, the social group that is most vulnerable and needs government services the most. Yet present government has made all possible efforts to privatise as many assets as possible.
Silver lining— A lesson for future.
According to a report by Forbes, one thing common in between the countries where pandemic was controlled at very beginning was that they were lead by women leaders. Also another factor is robust public health system, and a culture of thriving grassroots democracy with power devolving effectively. The Communist government in Kerala was initially quite successful in flattening the covid-19 curve; although unlock procedures again made it worse. The initial control in Kerala was hailed to Kerala’s civic societies which lead from the front, operating on grassroot level. The results of this pandemic on health and economy are quite conspicuous— government can either create narratives to justify its failure, divert media attention or gracefully accept its accountability. As an immediate measure our government should start working on building infrastructure on grassroot level. Covid-19 has tested our social contract— Our reaction matters and we should react by prioritising common good