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
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.