The coronavirus pandemic has released an unprecedented level of actions and reactions that has shaken the world. In this article we will focus only on India and see what good can come out of this major shakeup. As you can see we are optimists!

We will consider the following aspects:

1. The lock down
2. The sufferings of migrant labour
3. Dependency versus self reliance
4. Global versus local

The Lock Down

We have had one of the biggest lock downs in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. Innumerable experts, journalists and ordinary people have said and ‘proved’ that the lock down did not achieve anything. The cases per day have been rising after the lock down. Everyone, including the industry is questioning the wisdom of the lock down. So let us conclude that the lock down did not help to control the pandemic.

But what did it achieve? Since all the fossil fuel based transport was stopped and the factories were closed, they did not emit foul gases and the air quality in the cities became very good. Also since the factories did not send their foul effluents to the rivers and lakes they got purified. Thus it achieved the cleaning of the environment – air and water bodies – lakes and rivers. Yamuna cleaned herself in 60 days. Dolphins were seen in Hooghly at Kolkata. Increase in type and number of birds in the cities occurred.

It also gave paid holidays (sorry, coronavirus sabbatical!) to several liberal intellectuals to reflect deeply on fundamental questions. And they had an audience. Many people who lived in comfort zones thought deeply about the predicament, about the meaning of development, about the future of their children etc.

The sufferings of migrant labour

Everyone has condemned the suddenness of the lock out declaration. Only four hours between 8 pm and 12 midnight! Millions of the workers in the city woke up to find that they had no jobs, very little money and notices to leave their rented places. Within days hundreds of thousands of workers decided to go home to their villages. No trains or buses! So they started walking and some lucky ones had bicycles and at least one child carried his parents on a cycle rickshaw! It was an exodus and the poet Gulzar compared it to the partition exodus of 1947. Almost every one of them suffered and many died on the road.

But it also released the hidden goodness among hundreds of fellow citizens. They came out with community kitchens, shoes and chappals, dressed the wounded, arranged transport wherever they could. Others generously donated money and resources. And there was widespread anger against the government and against the capitalist system.

The workers themselves showed heroism. They walked enduring the hardships, they cycled breaking all kinds of endurance records – 1100 Km in 7 days carrying wife on pillion, a young girl carried her sick father on her ladies’ bicycle on pillion from Guragaon to Darbhanga and so on. They were given warm supports all along the road and back at home. Many workers resolved never to go back to the city.

Dependency versus self reliance

A large number of political parties, ngos and individuals have been demanding from the government relief and long term effective action. The government too has released emergency ration and cash payments to many individuals. But as it happens in government schemes, many are left out and there is immense suffering among the poor in the city. Also millions have lost their jobs and there is no sign they will get them any time soon. The capitalist system has received the biggest jolt/recession/depression in its history. No one knows how much and when it will recover.

On the other hand a large number of communities have been self reliant and their case studies are coming up. Viklap Sangam has been and is advocating this for a long time and so are many other grass root organisations. With the collapse of the system this is gaining increasing significance. Many workers retuning home have started working on eco restoration projects – notably for recovering water bodies so that people can store water during the coming monsoon.

Global versus local

Almost everyone agrees that it is the globalisation that has spread the coronavirus. So today if we have to build an alternative to capitalism it will have to be some kind of local self sufficient economy and polity based on equality and sustainability. A polity of federalism – federating with the neighbouring community on the basis of ‘a fee association of free people’.

The future-which way to go?

Today we are standing at the cross roads. One road leads to, ‘nothing will change – we will go back to the old ways’. So we keep on criticising the government and demanding it to do something. In a sense this kind of politics also legitimises the system particularly when the government is losing its credibility among people. The other road leads to ‘give up on the capitalist system and build an alternative. Rebuild the community and restore the ecology. Build a self reliant local community.’ Once we decide, the path will open up.

Some people will say: ‘It is not a simple either/or situation but the important thing is our understanding and the priority we give to the kind the action we get involved in’. True, but in the final analysis the real choice is between chaos and transition because in my opinion capitalism is doomed anyway. So if we take one road it will lead to chaos and the other may take you to a possible ‘heaven on earth’!

“If I am not for me who will be? If I am only for me what am I? If not now when?”
– Rabbi Hillel (110 BC -10 AD)

T. Vijayendra (1943- ) was born in Mysore, grew in Indore and went to IIT Kharagpur to get a B. Tech. in Electronics (1966). After a year’s stint at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, he got drawn into the whirlwind times of the late 60s. Since then, he has always been some kind of political-social activist. His brief for himself is the education of Left wing cadres and so he almost exclusively publishes in the Left wing journal Frontier, published from Kolkata. For the last nine years, he has been active in the field of ‘Peak Oil’ and is a founder member of Peak Oil India and Ecologise. Since 2015 he has been involved in Ecologise! Camps and in 2016 he initiated Ecologise Hyderabad. He divides his time between an organic farm at the foothills of Western Ghats, watching birds, writing fiction and Hyderabad. He has published a book dealing with resource depletions, three books of essays, two collections of short stories, a novella and an autobiography. Vijayendra has been a ‘dedicated’ cyclist all his life, meaning, he neither took a driving licence nor did he ever drive a fossil fuel based vehicle. Email: t.vijayendra@gmail.com


SIGN UP FOR COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWS LETTER


 

Comments are closed.