Views & Reviews
The Economic Social and Legal Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on People’s Lives
Wuhan city is the birth place of Covid-19, situated in China. This invisible tiny virus has become the ugly monster in the psyche of mankind. Not an iota is unknown to each other in this global village. Every friction of mistake has a consequence to all citizens of the Universe. “The world is a stage” says William Shakespeare. Every act that is displayed on the stage has a tremendous impact on the surface of the earth. We fight together or perish together. The deadly weapons of the powerful nations have prostrated before the Covid-19. Today, the world is hunting to hunt down this invisible monster with a theme: “To kill or to get killed”. The Covid-19 has brought the following disasters to humanity.
Novel Coronavirus and the Future of Economy: The resilience of the agricultural sector has been tested by the Covid-19 outbreak. A global crash in demand from hotels and restaurants has seen prices of agricultural commodities drop by 20%. Countries around the world have imposed a number of protective measures to contain the exponentially increasing spread. Petroleum and Oil price has gone down drastically within a short period of time. The Chemical Industry is predicted to reduce its global production by 1.2% the worst growth for the sector since the 2008 financial crash. Covid-19 has impacted communities, businesses and organisations globally, inadvertently affecting the financial markets and the global economy.
Unco-ordinated governmental responses and lockdowns have led to a disruption in the supply and demand chain. Initially, in China, lockdown restrictions meant a grave decrease in product supply by Chinese factories, while quarantine and self-isolation policies decreased consumption, demand and utilisation of products and services with more businesses closing or running remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy is struggling and businesses are unsure of current legal rules and obligations.
During this time of uncertainty among employers and employees, there is a lot of confusion about paid leave and unemployment legislation. Covid-19 is reshaping unemployment laws as daily life grinds to a halt. The coronavirus outbreak is impacting every aspect of our lives all over the world. Countries have to decide how to respond to closing businesses and unemployment on top of the health crisis. The abrogation of labour laws in certain states has brought a nightmare to thousands of migrant workers. The fundamental rights which give us a sense of legal personalities will be converted to mere beings.
Novel Coronavirus and the Future of Education: Covid-19 has affected all levels of the education system from pre-school to tertiary education. Over 100 countries have imposed nationwide closures of education facilities. UNESCO has estimated that close to 900 million learners have been affected by the closure of educational institutions. The widespread nature of the Pandemic has contributed to the already increasing level of anxiety, worry, depression and fear among students. The prolonged lockdown and severe restrictions in many countries are affecting, not only educational sectors but also the minds of the growing young generation.
Due to the pandemic spread we are forced to move quickly to a new realm of education for our kids. Online education is the way we found to educate our kids. But this too is not reaching many of the rural and poor populations all over the world.
Today for students who do not have access to technology, books, food or literate adults at home, remote learning runs the risk of drastically widening the gap between haves and have-nots of those resources. This anxiety and fear lead the students to be addicted to social media and the internet. We saw Bois Locker Room incident in New Delhi recently which highlighted how students in groups deviate from moral to immoral life, from good to bad, from respect to disrespect, from companionship to commodities. It is a sad plight of the situation. It is a tip of the iceberg. The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented and has created a lot of uncertainties. It has shaken the entire world of education.
It forces us to be creative, open, flexible, courageous, risk taking and forward looking. It makes us think of humans well-being above all. It pushes us to get more closely connected to the realities of upsetting world in which we live today. Corona crisis makes us wiser and realistic about the world. We are not the masters of the world; we are only one among many created beings.
Novel Coronavirus and the NGOs: It was reported that the government has cancelled the licenses of over 6,600 NGOs in the last three years for violating provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010. But the corona virus pandemic has forced a change in the present government’s position on NGOs. Unprepared for the scale of the outbreak, the Centre recently asked NGOs to aid its efforts. Around 92,000 NGOs have stepped up to provide assistance to those who need it, such as migrant labourers, who are especially vulnerable, having been left without income by the lockdown. Due to absence of transport services lakhs of migrant workers have been walking hundreds of kilometres to their villages and towns.
Coronavirus Unprepared: The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the corona virus, but thousands of migrant workers gathered near railway stations in different cities. They demanded that authorities arrange transport to send them back to their hometowns and villages so that they can be with their families. But they were kept in quarantine or paralysed without sufficient information. There was a huge shortage of supply of essential commodities.
The Prime Minister of India has announced INR 20 lakh crore for Atma Nirbha Bharat Abhiyaan (to build a self-reliant India) and besides that the Prime Minister Fund Trust allowance INR 3100 crore was announced to fight against Covid-19. Will it suffice to feed thousands of migrant workers who migrated from rural to urban in search of livelihood? The national lockdown has left them stranded far away from home, with no jobs or money. The problem of migrant workers which estimate more than 40 millions across the country opens the plight of Indians. The lockdown policy has saved thousands of lives but on the other hand the same amount of people have suffered and died due to starvation and unknown diseases.
Misfortune comes in groups. Amphan cyclone has added one more tragedy to humanity in India. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) along with the armed forces is doing a vital role in rescuing the locals, who are helpless in many ways. In fact, there are many natural calamities beyond our control which we call them, the Act of God. Life goes on, facing the toughest storm, looking for a better world.
Coronavirus vs. Poverty: Prof. Michael Levitt says “Lockdown will kill more people than the virus; the elites don’t lose their jobs”. Certainly the lockdown will kill more people than the virus. The tens of millions of people who are out of work are drifting like the grasses in the flowing streams. The very big crises in the world created by experts and the experts have destroyed the lives of hundreds of millions of people and not the virus.
The human tragedy today is the lockdown not the virus. Any politician who believes in it should think seriously for an alternative arrangement. The population of India is one billion three hundred million people. Millions of migrants are fleeing from the cities and the National Highways are filled with men, women and children, carrying their belongings, trying to walk homes for hundreds of kilometres. Several people died in the process but the authorities say that the lockdown is the key to saving lives, but the lack of planning has hit the most vulnerable citizens. 16 migrants were crashed by train in Madhya Pradesh. A pregnant woman, who travelled from Maharashtra to MP, delivered a baby on the way and after two hours of rest she proceeded for 150 km on foot to reach her native place.
In the absence of work, many migrant workers are now dependent on food handouts from governments or charities for survival. An Indian Council of Medical Research study has suggested that one Covid-19 patient can infect 406 people in 30 days if he/she doesn’t adhere to lockdown. Here we have to choose the lesser evil to counter this novel corona virus.
Covid-19 Policy Makers Delayed in India: There is a saying “a stitch in time saves nine”, to fight against the novel corona virus in India. The most crucial aspects of the policy response to the pandemic rest overwhelmingly with the Centre: restrictions on international travel and exports, screening at ports of entry, testing strategy and criteria, treatment and drug protocols as personal protection equipment (PPE). On 31st January 2020, India announced its first confirmed Covid-19 case, but inexplicably allowed the export of raw materials for PPEs to continue unchecked till March19. Shortage of testing kits and lack of transparency and denial of community transmission has become a controversial aspect of the Indian government’s Covid-19 response from the very inception.
Critical Evaluation of Legal Aspects of Covid-19 Pandemic 2020: “Swim together or sink together”, Covid-19 has shaken the world with the awesome phobia for the survival of the fittest in the tiny mouth of the coronavirus. The Prime Minister of India has announced a nationwide lockdown to fight against the deadly Coronavirus as one Nation. Every citizen is asked to stay at home and follow the guidelines given by the authorities. Here comes the legal aspects to crackdown the violators of the law of Nation. Section 269 of IPC- Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life. Several states have announced various strong measures at times to check the outbreak of life threatening influenzas such as swine flu, bird flu, corona virus etc. and whoever unlawfully or negligently does any act which he knows or has reason to believe to be likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months or with fine or with both. Hence, the central government has asked every citizen to strictly enforce the lockdown and take ‘legal action’ against violators.
Section 271 of the Indian Penal Code is one such provision that requires obedience of quarantine orders imposed by the government and prescribes punishment for disobedience of the same during times when a deadly disease has taken its toll on the people. Quarantine is used during outbreaks, Epidemics and Pandemics.
Rights vs. Laws in Time of Pandemic Emergency: Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, region or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education and many more. “Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”. Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. It states “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.
We have fundamental rights but they are not absolute and are subject to reasonable restrictions as necessary for the protection of public interest.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13 says, Right to Free Movement in and out of the Country. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution speaks that “No person shall deprive of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law”. The above rights are at the prerogative of the lawmakers and remain dormant to the public. In time of pandemic emergency the law of equity, justice and good conscience may prevail to prevent the outbreak of any deadly disease.
The Role of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA): The Disaster Management Act, 2005 has provided the hierarchical system of disaster management in various capacities such as National Disaster Management, State Disaster Management, District Disaster Management and Local Disaster Management to lay down the policies, plan and guidelines for disaster management for ensuring timely and affective response to disaster. The Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for matters concerning internal security, centre-state relations, central armed police forces, border management, and disaster management. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been allocated INR 1,67,250 crore in Union Budget 2020-2021.This is an increase of 20% over the revised estimates in 2019-20, which was INR 1,39,108 crore. Further, this is 41% higher than the budget allocation of last year, which was INR 1,19,025 crore. This is a huge leap within the jump to monitor and mitigate to encounter the National Disaster Management in various capacities. But unfortunately the victims never get their share and die of starvation. It is a serious matter for every civil authority to introspect the mismanagement of fund in time of Covid-19.
While providing compensation and relief to the victims of disaster, there shall be no discrimination on the ground of sex, caste, community, descent or religion. Corona Virus has no boundaries, no religious restrictions, no ethnic and continental preferences. It goes with the host. Is it not teaching us to be one as a human family? Is it not teaching us to be global citizens, sans narrow domestic walls? Is not Corona teaching us the vainness of fighting in the name of religion and God? Is not the pandemic a warning for us to abandon wars and hatred and come together to help each other? Let us recall the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed,”
Conclusion: Life is full of paradoxes. Time heals everything. With fears of a new recession and financial collapse, times like these call for resilient and strong leadership in healthcare, business, government and wider society. Immediate relief measures need to be implemented and adjusted for those that may fall through the cracks. Medium and longer term planning is needed for how the economy is rebalanced and re-energised following this crisis. A broad socio-economic development plan, including sector-by-sector plans and an ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship so that those with robust and sustainable business models, should be allowed to flourish. It is prudent that governments and financial institutions constantly re-assess and re-evaluate the state of play and ensure that the ‘whatever it takes’ promise is truly delivered. The corona virus outbreak is impacting every aspect of our lives all over the world. Countries have to decide how to respond to closing businesses and unemployment, keeping in view the health crises as the top most paramount. How are different countries around the world responding to the pandemic? As the coronavirus originated in China, I would prefer to conclude as the ancient Chinese proverb says: The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now. It’s not too late.
Fr. Thaikho Simon Msfs
Purul, Senapati Dist. Manipur.