COVID-19: FORCES US TO THINK, ARE WE PROGRESSING IN RIGHT DIRECTION?
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The world has been periodically witnessing one or the other viruses for the last more than 100 years (including 1918 Spanish Flu in which around 500 million people were affected and about 50 million estimated deaths) but never in the past, there was so much panic. Perhaps, it is because of the fact that the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) has engulfed all the countries, and as yet there is no medicine or vaccine for this deadly pandemic disease. There was 50 lakh confirmed cases and approximately 3.20 lakh deaths in the world as of May 20, 2020.
On December 31, 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed about cases of pneumonia with unknown cause in Wuhan city of China. Till January 20, 2020 there were 282 confirmed cases reported from four countries including China (278), Thailand (2), Japan (1) and Republic of Korea (1). The cases in Thailand, Japan and Korea were imported from Wuhan. During December 31, 2019 and January 20, 2020, 6 deaths were reported from Wuhan. The rest is history but the number of confirmed cases as well as the deaths is increasing at a fast rate and nobody knows where and when it will stop?
The WHO has declared the COVID-19 as a pandemic and there is an all-round lockdown. People are confined to their homes and the majority of the workers (out of a total of 3,317 million) across all sectors of the economy are forced to work from homes. Only the emergency and most essential services such as health services and food are being provided. The health services are overburdened and are not in a position to cope with the ever-increasing number of corona victims.
The global economy has come to the grinding halt and is heading towards serious recession which may turn into a great depression. There is lurking fear of layoffs and unemployment and lakhs of workers are applying for unemployment allowance. It may have far-reaching socio-cultural, psychological, and politico-economic implications for the entire mankind and for future generations. Billions of dollars are being pledged to the WHO and trillions of dollars are being spared for relief and health services. Scientists are working hard to find out vaccines and medicine for COVID-19.
WHO’S TO BE BLAMED FOR VIRUS? KEY QUESTIONS REMAINED UNANSWERED
Nonetheless, a number of questions are coming to mind: ‘Who is responsible for this pandemic’? Is it the sea food or the bats and snakes that are responsible for transmitting this deadly virus to the humans? Why at the humans are eating these and many other animals and birds and their products? Do only humans have the right to live on the planet earth and no other species? Why humans are resorting to reckless and unmindful deforestation and abusing the non-renewable natural resources, including water? Why are they not bothering about sustainable development? Is it the result of the present-day development paradigm which is nothing but a consumption-led-growth model? Are the humans not aware that such a development model with a high incidence of poverty and unemployment and an ever-increasing inequality is not sustainable at all? Are they really unmindful of the fact that nature has its own mechanism to respond to its reckless exploitation by man?
Human greed is playing havoc with nature leading to environmental degradation and ecological imbalance. Consequently, most of the animals, birds, and other creatures on the earth planet are becoming endangered species. We must understand that nature has been sending signals (global warming and numerous natural calamities) in the past and will continue to do so in the future if humans continued to play havoc with nature. The on-going pandemic of COVID-19 may be one of the responses of nature!
CAN EARTH SUPPORT OUR PACE OF GROWTH
The message of ‘The Limits to Growth’ (report by the Club of Rome published in 1972), though invited a lot of criticism, still holds good: The study concludes that earth’s interlocking resources – the global system of nature in which we all live – probably cannot support present rates of economic and population growth much beyond the year 2100, if that long, even with advanced technology. It says that man can create a society in which he can live indefinitely on earth if he imposes limits on himself and his production of material goods to achieve a state of global equilibrium with population and production in carefully selected balance.
Though the world is passing through awful times and is beleaguered in fear, anxiety, and uncertainty yet there is a silver lining and that is all the countries are united in their fight against Covid-19. It seems that the world has learned the lesson that ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’ Let us hope that unlike the story of Dr. Heidgger’s Experiment, people continue to remember this golden rule to survive. Another silver lining is that the pollution level has come down and the quality of air has improved a lot. The sky is blue and the environment is much cleaner.
Now is the time that the world needs to ponder over the above-mentioned questions and think out of the box. As of now, no one knows when will the COVID-19 be curbed and when will the people be free from forced lockdown? But hope sustains life and there is always light at the end of the tunnel. ‘If winter is here, can spring be far behind?’
LOCK DOWNS TO BECOME A PRACTISE
With this optimistic note, I would like to suggest to the global community that it is now the high time that we may decide to observe complete lockdown (except for health services) for 2 days in month. It is easier said than done but is not impossible if we take a unanimous decision. As student of economics, I am sure that it would have a positive impact on economic growth and human health. Such a decision will certainly improve air quality and environment besides saving lot of financial and natural resources. Besides, the people will be able to spend quality time with family and children which in turn would build a much balanced society. Resultantly, the global happiness index will improve. Nature then may be kind to us and the incidences of corona like pandemics may become rare and less painful.
The UNO should take the initiative to bring all countries on board and decide any two (fixed) days in every month for observing complete lockdown across all the countries simultaneously. Initially it may sound a utopia but eventually it would become a new normal.
ABOUT THE WRITER
- He’s Ranjit Singh Ghuman, a professor of eminence, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. He is also a Professor of Economics, center for research in rural and industrial development, Chandigarh. Ghuman also remained head of the economics department in Punjabi University Patiala. He is a Peer team member of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), Bangalore. Before joining CRRID as Nehru Chair Professor in 2011, Ghuman has been Dean College Development Council; Head, Economics Department; Director, Centre for Research in Economic Change and Coordinator, South-West Asia Study Centre.