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Many of the leaders in our country continue to be that face of absurdity responsible for creating the chaotic situation which has catapulted the nation from nowhere into the global top-ten recording a daily increase in the coronavirus cases. Of course no leader should be grudged his parochial leanings! But some of our leaders have gone over the top exhibiting fondness for people from their state.

But their concern for the thousands who have migrated to the other parts of the country in search of their livelihood shouldn’t come at the expense of the interests and welfare of the locals in those regions. Migration is certainly not a recent phenomenon; on the contrary, it has been part of the human history since its very beginning. Seasonal migration for work is a pervasive reality in rural India.

Such has been the overwhelming presence of migrants in many states that they have constituted an ‘aura’ of indispensability about themselves in areas where they are engaged in various works. Goa and Kerala for instance are states which are completely dependent on the migrants and their absence has a telling effect on the states’ economy. The situation with regard to the migrant workers is more-or-less the same in many other states in the country as well! 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was invariably this segment of the society which bore the brunt of the stringent measures imposed by the government to contain, control and regulate the spread of the virus. The lockdown brought along with it its own share of miseries for the migrants. While the plight of the migrants in various states gradually evolved into a political issue, it naturally follows that the intervention of the respective states to which these migrants belonged too would be steeped in politics. Realizing that their credibility was at stake, a few Chief Minsters prevailed over the Centre to envisage ways to bring home the stranded migrants.

If the Shramik special trains pressed into service by the Indian Railways was another harrowing experience for the migrants; the total mismanagement by the authorities at the railway stations controlling the teeming crowds arriving and departing has added to the risk of further infections.

The current spike in the number of COVID-19 cases could well be a result of this uncontrolled movement. But amidst this pandemic, the media has gone a step further to instill something akin to a fear psychosis amongst the masses. COVID-19 as a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus is scary, spreading fast and the global medical fraternity is yet to come out with a potent cure to counter the effects of the virus. It thus follows that as an unknown quantity the coronavirus possesses all the qualities necessary to instill fear in the minds of the populace.

It is quite obvious that the limited knowledge the world has had about the disease has effectively led to a situation where every bit of (mis)information about the virus has been treated as authentic material and made viral without any confirmation. With unchecked, unnecessary and unreliable posts about the ‘mayhemic devastation’ the virus was capable of unleashing doing the rounds in the social media, it was ensured that public anxiety was at its peak.

It is at such times that the human being refuses to differentiate fact from fiction and gives into all the frivolities of a feeble mind. In the meanwhile, after having four different phases of lockdown since March 24, ‘Unlock 1.0’ will now have India experimenting with the gradual easing of restrictions by the government to get the country back into the ‘normal mode’ once again.

But India’s decision to end the lockdown has nothing to do with claims of having successfully weathered a peak in new infections - it is the nation’s economy that demands it! At the outset it needs to be understood that the ‘forceful internment’ of its citizens with a special emphasis on shutting down of all business and commercial activities will never bode well for a country that has had its economy shattered by a  series of crises and still shows no signs of recovering from them.

Moreover, India’s economic turbulence over the past few years is well known. The country’s GDP growth has slowed down considerably and job losses have been quite significant. Unemployment in the country has scaled new heights. India is definitely experiencing an economic slowdown!

And now with a market meltdown triggered by a global pandemic, India is in for tougher times ahead economically. As things stand today, without a cure in sight for the dreaded virus it is difficult to envisage a definite time-frame for the global economy to recover. It is well known that over the last one decade, India’s exposure to global economies has increased significantly. Hence one can well imagine the gloomy fiscal scenario the country will stare at in the event of a global recession!

The Coronavirus pandemic has further delivered a knock-out punch with the worldwide lockdown in its wake having upset all calculations of a financial turnaround. Hence it was pertinent to have the government looking at ways to contain the spread of the infection while ensuring that thoughts of improving the economy would not be taking a back seat in its order of priorities.

As an example, the manner in which the Modi-government has responded to the migrant issue after the Coronavirus outbreak says a lot for its preparedness with regard to the calamitous situation prevalent across the country. It is difficult to say whether the announcement of various stimulus packages with an eye on reviving the economy will work immediate wonders. But recover it must from the terrible slump to post moderate gains this quarter to allay fears.  

For this to happen, India has to learn to live with the virus! With the extent to which people’s lives are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; while sincere attempts are to be made by the government to contain the ‘inflammable’ situation, at the same time it has to be ensured that along with the lives, even the livelihoods of the people are safeguarded.

This cannot merely be a slogan! But with the “Life versus livelihood’ strife by the government scaling an unusually ridiculous pitch in India, it appears that some really unpractical means are justifying the ends.

Despite the prospects of a definite shrink, many world powers are moving mountains to prop up their economies during the coronavirus downturn. Could this however be said of India! How pragmatic has the Indian government been balancing the will to save lives and the livelihood of its citizens as the nation gradually eases out of the shutdown-mode!

(Published on 15th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 25)