As the national lockdown comes to an end on May 3, India may be headed to an extended period of lockdown and/or concentrated partial lockdown. The sudden yet necessary announcement by the Government created a chaotic and massive movement of migrant workers to their rural homes. Despite several measures announced by the government in retrospect, the period continues to prove most harsh to the migrant workers and others who live a hand-to mouth existence.
The Pandemic which originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China has taken the lives of almost two and a half million people globally with the highest mortality rate in the United States followed by Italy, Spain and several other countries in Europe. Even in these countries, the worst hit are the poor and the marginalized communities.
While the challenges are daunting, this lockdown period has also provided a time for reflection for those who are privileged enough to have a roof over their heads and do not have to worry about getting food to the table.
The pandemic’s origin traced to a wet market catering to demands for exotic and endangered wild animals besides traditional livestock in Wuhan, China goes to show that it is born out of irrational human desire and greed. There is an inherent lesson for us all to be less greedy and take only what we need and not just what we want from nature.
The Chinese government used its state machinery to effectively control and conceal the facts on the ground in the crucial initial phase and the world lost on valuable time to respond quickly and effectively to the pandemic. The need for transparent and accountable government not only to its citizens but to the humanity in times such as this cannot be overemphasized.
The outbreak made us realise what and who really matter in times of crisis. Four most essential things for basic human existence that all governments should ensure for its citizens: Food, water, shelter and health care. Without access to clean water and food, it is absurd to educate masses on healthy living and eating. Social distancing is a privilege many in the refugee camps, slum areas and suffering from poverty do not enjoy as they cramp in small spaces. Since we live in an interdependent world, when the poor get sick, we get sick as well.
More than ever before, the world realised that it is actually the health workers, the grocery sellers and the essential services providers who really matter in such times of crisis. Hopefully the necessity of investing in proper health facilities with equal access for all has dawned on many countries where these facilities are inadequate, to say the least. Measures for improving the lives of essential service providers must also be a priority.
While the world was beginning its battle with coronavirus, groups of people from various religious communities in many parts of the world including South Korea and India were congregating in large numbers, resorting to divine powers, at the cost of ignoring lockdowns and appeals for social distancing and self-isolation. Many of these gatherers became force multipliers for the virus. A clear lesson emerged from these congregations that divine powers can provide solace only if we learn to be ethical and responsible citizens first.
On a personal front, the lockdown made me realise how little of actual personal paraphernalia I need to exist comfortably as I shifted my base temporarily. For the past few weeks, we have been consuming only vegetarian food and feeling healthier and more energized than ever before. This period has also proved to be a great time for regular catch up with near and dear ones, particularly family members besides personal indulges like reading and watching films.
Finally, the outbreak has been a reminder that we are just one of the species on this planet. Although the human species is suffering, most of the other species are thriving. The pandemic has provided a big relief to nature and to all its flora and fauna. There is enough credible information to show that all forms of pollution- air, water and noise – have come down drastically because of the lockdown imposed by many countries around the world. People around the world are posting pictures and videos of blue skies, clear mountains, bird sightings and butterflies fluttering.
I hope we emerge from this catastrophe more evolved, less greedy and more responsible and caring towards each other and to the planet we live in.
Note- The article was first published on April 13th on the Writer’s personal blog on Times of India. Minor changes have been made to the article published here with the consent of the writer.
The author is a Member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and the Executive Director of the NGO, Empowering the Vision.