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The lessons we must learn from the pandemic

When will humanity... find glory in the eradication of this pandemic... when an arms race will not suck away funds, but generate funds for food and shelter for all...
Cyclists on the maidan on foggy Saturday morning

Dilip Kumar Ghoshal   |   Calcutta   |   Published 22.11.20, 01:08 AM

The coronavirus suddenly sprang into our daily consciousness with the beginning of 2020. It has become our agonising obsession, the killer of our joys of life, the single devastating destroyer of our liberty of movement, the ruthless demon to incarcerate us within the confinement of our homes, the mindlessly cruel snatcher of millions of jobs. It is nothing short of never-ending darkness, though a day dawns every morning with ill-concealed gloominess in our benighted globe.

Every child is taught to wear masks and observe social distancing. Heaven does not get a chance to dance around him or her infancy, as the shadows of the prison house darken. The undying hope of an effective vaccine is still a faint light at the end of the long tunnel. The horror of the pestilence is still raging.

We have perhaps unlearnt everything we have assiduously learnt from our childhood. We have been oblivious of the oft-taught virtues of good neighbourliness. We no longer care for remaining socially close and helpful, for repaying our debts to parents and ageing grandparents, to our society and mother earth.

The coronavirus is perhaps wielding her furious lash to punish our self-centredness and foolish shortsightedness.

Where coronavirus appeared as a swift moving, quick-killing demon and our fragile economy started falling like a house of cards, the heart-rending sight of helpless, famished men, women and children in thousands trying to trek back home after losing their jobs and shelter, facing the fury of the pitiless sun, walking with weary legs, was too deep for our tears.

The all-knowing God and the governing authorities had been busy otherwise with little time for alleviation of this inhuman plight of man. Political bickerings on failure of administration to prevent this human tragedy on our roads, even rail tracks and national highways, brought no succour to the distressed walkers.

The destination they reached at long last did not prove to be EL Dorado. The unfortunate migrant labourers deserved a warm welcome and more assistance, government and private, to meet their minimum human needs.

Our GDP is fast falling. Government treasury is depleting menacingly. Private business is yet to pick up to regenerate employment. Those who are attacked with this virus are under a panic about getting hospital beds for effective, clean and caring treatment at affordable cost. The surge in the pandemic, again and again, had its toll on the lives of the frontline workers like medical and nursing staff and police personnel.

Our failure to eradicate this pandemic should not provide an occasion for mudslinging among rival parties. If Covid-19 wins and people continue to fall victims, no political or electoral victory will be a real and lasting one.

When will humanity, irrespective of caste, colour and creed, find glory in the eradication of this pandemic and in creating a mutually assisting war-free, hate-free economy when an arms race will not suck away funds, but generate funds for creation of jobs, supplying food and shelter for all and education for all children.

A lasting, prosperous and peaceful time with benediction for all will be a real bastion against the invasion of Covid-19. The roar of cannon balls, the blast of bombs and persecution of people holding opposite and different political opinions should have been stopped by now to meet the challenge of the pandemic. Then this pandemic would have been a blessing in disguise and will peter out if united we stand determined to win over this global menace.

The pandemic has placed us in the tragic situation of helplessly witnessing our near and dear ones become casualties. Death of a friend, relative or neighbour, because of Covid, worsened by preexisting comorbidity or not, is simply a number added to rising mortality. The so-called celebrity among them receives the eager attention of the otherwise complacent TV watchers with an insatiable hunger for sensational news.

As the day of the availability of vaccine recedes, let us not sink in despair. Let us find glory not in personal agrandisement but in non-egoistic embracing of a simple, internally rich lifestyle shining with love and service to the poorest of the poor and the lowliest of the low. A vaccine-protected long life sans these human developments will be a tinsel glory only.

It is said that coronavirus has changed the world and the worst hit are the students. The schools and colleges have perhaps shut their classrooms to old — fashioned traditional mode of learning and teaching. The catechetical method of teaching, the inspiring and edifying talks of the teachers, the lively queries of the inquisitive learners, made more expressive with their body language, are perhaps lamentably things of the past.  Eyes glued to the screens of computers or smartphones, ears turned to the torrents of words coming through the videos, devoid of warm human surroundings, are all that is needed to pursue scholarship in accordance with the syllabus. There is no chance for the wavering eyes to look askance through the window of the classroom at the dancing parrots in the neighbouring foliage or at the white pieces of clouds.

The wonderful diversity of the world has been forced to reduce itself to a small instrument with a screen which relentlessly demands undivided attention of the young learners. Only the future will tell whether this system has begotten brilliant men who are eager to follow knowledge beyond the utmost bound of human thoughts.

The office spaces are awfully empty as the employees are allowed to work from home. Though the empty spaces may pinch the purse of the companies, this has to be tolerated.

The employers must have sustainable dividend or revenue to keep the system going without perpetual indebtedness. Our economy and business must respond quickly to this shock of lockdown so that no employee is cashiered or dismissed.

Human ingenuity and will must overcome this global crisis with real success before which all military triumphs of the mighty warlords will fade.

We are not yet sure why this deadly virus has appeared. We must be more ecologically, scientifically and morally concerned to adopt the best practices when utilising our natural resources of air, sunshine, water, energy, mines, fields, forests, hills and also obviously our flora and fauna, to avoid disaster. All our projects, government and private, must be transparently made with concern for permanent benefit with dignity for all men, especially the vulnerable and the marginalised in our community.

The community spread of Covid-19 will surely stop; but the above noted virus of criminal unconcern about anybody but my own opulence seeking self may survive to spread venom.

Just waiting and waiting for the vaccine with bated breath, keeping in abeyance all endeavours for socio-economic, morally sound humanitarian and altruistic improvements of our growing human families, above caste, colour, race and nation, will not bring an end to the all-devouring illness.

The war to end coronavirus should demand the end of all military wars that divide and destroy human society. A global human society united in peace and brotherhood will be more than sufficient to rebuild our shattered economy for the good of all human beings. May our victory over Covid 19 usher in such a brave new world.

Dilip Kumar Ghoshal is a retired IAS officer

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