Covid-19: There is a ‘new ab­nor­mal’ in the world

Acute de­pri­va­tion is lead­ing to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of crime, dis­or­der and an­ar­chy, and erod­ing the rule of law

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - COMMENT - SHASHI SHEKHAR Shashi Shekhar is the ed­i­tor-in-chief, Hin­dus­tan The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

Last Fri­day, when Gu­labo-Sitabo, the film star­ring Amitabh Bach­han and Ayush­man Khu­rana was re­leased on Ama­zon Prime, it got an un­prece­dented wel­come. The film in which the two pro­tag­o­nists are al­ways at log­ger­heads has been pro­jected as an ex­am­ple of the “new nor­mal”.

The film in­dus­try pro­vides em­ploy­ment to mil­lions of peo­ple di­rectly and in­di­rectly. This trend of re­leas­ing films on dig­i­tal plat­forms may lead to unem­ploy­ment for many of them, and hit the lower and mid­dle-in­come groups the most.

Mumbai was also hit by a tragedy in the 1980s, which re­sulted in unem­ploy­ment for many. On Jan­uary 1982, the mill work­ers strike started by trade union leader Datta Sa­mant re­sulted in the clo­sure of most of the cloth mills.

The film in­dus­try is not lim­ited to Mumbai, but it con­trib­utes to the econ­omy of the coun­try. Any change can dis­turb the equi­lib­rium. In­deed, the na­tion is wit­ness­ing change all around. The post-coro­n­avirus dis­ease (Covid-19) era has be­gun to change ev­ery­thing that was once fa­mil­iar to us. It has re­ally shaken the faith of peo­ple in sys­tems.

The ini­tial months af­ter the coro­n­avirus pan­demic struck changed the face of so­ci­ety. Let me give an ex­am­ple. In the be­gin­ning of May, a woman with a child was found cry­ing bit­terly on the main road of Sec­tor-18, the com­mer­cial hub of Noida in Ut­tar Pradesh. Her hus­band, a fac­tory worker, had lost his job due to the lock­down. There was not a morsel of food in the house for sev­eral days. Af­ter walk­ing for sev­eral miles, she man­aged to reach one of her rel­a­tives who gave her ~5,000. While she was re­turn­ing, two mo­tor­cy­clists snatched her money. She was in such shock that she al­most col­lapsed by the road­side.

This is not the only case of des­per­ate peo­ple snatch­ing from each other. Dur­ing the last two months, there have been sev­eral cases of peo­ple with no pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record who have en­gaged in such ac­tions. Most of them had jobs till the end of March. Now they find them­selves in po­lice cus­tody, their lives turned up­side down, per­haps for­ever.

This is not just hap­pen­ing in Delhi and the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion; there have been sim­i­lar sto­ries from across the coun­try. This then, is the “new nor­mal”, or per­haps we should call it the “new ab­nor­mal”. This is a script which is be­ing writ­ten in th­ese times.

This ter­ri­ble turn of events is not just in In­dia but across the world.

The pres­sure of dis­tress and dis­con­tent has erupted in var­i­ous ways. The protests in the United States have paral­ysed many cities af­ter the bru­tal killing of Ge­orge Floyd by the po­lice in Min­neapo­lis, Min­nesota on May 25.

On May 31, the sit­u­a­tion had de­te­ri­o­rated to a point where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was forced to take shel­ter in the White House bunker. Such vi­o­lence, ha­tred and so­cial di­vi­sions have not been wit­nessed in a long time in the United States. The protests have now reached Europe as well.

In th­ese trou­bled times, crim­i­nals and an­ar­chists have been able to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion, which it must be ac­knowl­edged, was born out of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, dis­crim­i­na­tory struc­tures and po­lice ex­cesses.

News chan­nels broad­cast scenes of loot­ing and ar­son in ma­jor United States cities. Peo­ple smashed win­dows in shop­ping ar­cades and looted with the po­lice nowhere in sight.

The In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund had pre­dicted in mid-April that this coro­n­avirus pan­demic could lead us into an­ar­chy. The Fund’s ex­perts were of the view that many African coun­tries are go­ing from bad to worse.

The coro­n­avirus pan­demic seems to have eroded the rule of law in the United States. Two decades ago, when I first vis­ited South Africa, I was warned that in Jo­han­nes­burg and Dur­ban, peo­ple could of­ten be at­tacked and mugged on the roads. At that time, Jo­han­nes­burg was con­sid­ered the most danger­ous city in Africa. It is now ranked fourth.

Now let us look at Chicago. At the end of last month, this city saw 18 peo­ple be­ing mur­dered in just 24 hours.

Be­fore that, more than 50 peo­ple were shot, re­sult­ing in seven deaths in just 48 hours. The in­tel­li­gentsia of Europe is wor­ried that a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion could evolve in their re­gion.

The econ­omy of Europe was al­ready in the dol­drums be­fore the pan­demic. Now, Covid-19 has hurt it so badly that there is a threat of re­ces­sion.

There is no doubt that we are get­ting close to the “new ab­nor­mal”. We are all in this to­gether and no one re­ally knows what the fu­ture holds. It is only to be hoped that we can be gen­tler and kinder to each other in th­ese try­ing times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.