Extraordinary challenges demand extraordinary solutions and leadership quality. World at the edge of global pandemic COVID-19 is under one of the greatest threat posed to mankind in the last century. It has created fear among society and other stakeholders. The massive scale of the outbreak and its uncertainty to predict make it more challenging to respond.
Indeed, the outbreak of this pandemic has challenged many social and emotional constituents across the world. Recognizing the seriousness of this pandemic prompt response from our leadership shows mature democratic which results in the proper estimation of both the possibility of this crisis and the impact that it could have.
An existential crisis is facing the society, whole of nature, life, shape and future of humanity is at stake. It is high time for the leadership too to show extraordinary measures in limiting the crisis.
At the domestic level, India has shown exemplary leadership in dealing with this global challenge. As a precautionary step towards ensuring health security, Indian Prime Minister called for ‘Janta Curfew’ a very innovative way of a citizen-led lockdown for ensuring social distancing to curb the transmission of the virus. While the medical success of the call in flattening the curve can be estimated only later, what it did show is that the country came together as one unit across religious, political and caste lines, setting a new high for democracies.
In a very encouraging step to appreciate those engaged in combating COVID-19, PM urged the citizens to express their gratitude towards those in the first line of defense by applauding from the balconies or terraces of their houses for 5 minutes.
To generate awareness, India is also utilizing popular social Media platforms like WhatsApp to create awareness about the coronavirus pandemic and has urged social media services to tackle the spread of misinformation on their platforms.
But at the same time we are here, and we are facing another crisis, and we are hungry for whatever the past can teach us about how to survive moments of great stress and strain. India has taken many steps to deal with challenges that will emerge after and during the nation-wide lockdown. In this India has announced US$2.1 billion aid for those in the healthcare sector.
Also to ensure social security and inclusion government had announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package aimed at providing a safety net for those hit hardest by the Covid-19 lockdown, along with insurance cover for frontline medical personnel. About 800 million people will get free cereals and cooking gas apart from cash through direct transfers for three months.
The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana includes higher wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA), Rs 1,000 ex-gratia payment to nearly 30 million poor senior citizens, widows and disabled as well as insurance coverage of as much as Rs 50 lakh each for about 2 million healthcare workers battling the disease.
States have been asked to use the Building and Construction Workers Welfare Fund to provide relief to construction workers. The first instalment of Rs 2,000 under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Yojana will be frontloaded to reach 87 million farmers in April.
Reasserting India’s leadership once again by convening a video conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) states to collectively rein in the threat of COVID-19 can be seen as a thoughtful drive to respond to China’s growing influence in the region.
It is being seen as a good geopolitical move and timely initiative as COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-nCoV-2 virus, has created widespread concerns in South Asian countries. These countries are starting to suffer a widespread cessation of economic activity due to fears of this deadly virus.
India has taken the regional initiative, and we are helping each other across the land and maritime border, from providing medicines to testing protocols and protective gear (PPE). India pledged $10 million toward a COVID-19 emergency fund and it also announced that it would be putting together a team of specialists for the SAARC states. The fund has so far collected $15 million after Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also came forward with contributions for the initiative.
In this global crisis once again, Leaders of the Group of 20 or G20 major economies, have shown greater pledged to infuse over $5 trillion into the global economy, and do “whatever it takes” to minimize the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement issued after the G-20’s first-ever virtual summit, chaired by Saudi Arabia, members committed themselves to restore global growth, maintaining market stability and strengthening resilience.
“We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of a targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, being economic and financial impacts of the pandemic. We will continue to conduct bold and large-scale fiscal support. Collective G20 action will amplify its impact, ensure coherence, and harness synergies. The magnitude and scope of this response will get the global economy back on its feet, and set a strong basis for the protection of jobs and the recovery of growth,” the statement said.
The crisis staring us in the face has also posed another question for humankind to reflect upon. Our lives have slowed down to a great extent, if popular reports are to be believed the Ozone hole over Antarctic has started to heal and Delhi’s air Quality has improved to below 70 PPM after months of being in the hazardous zone. However, what remains for us to see is what will shape the future of the generations to come. Will Social Distancing and Work from Home become the new normal? Winston Churchill had once remarked, “The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope”. Memories of a past with no lockdowns, and memories of those who lost the battle against COVID 19 give us a hope of a future with normalcy. The very future of society now lies on the pillars of human adaptability and revised societal structures driven by technology.
(Writer is Director at LokNeeti India Foundation and Curator of Khajuraho Literature Festival)