Pandemic, politics and realities

The day got flooded with news on election results and breathless debates on the outcomes. As it looks, election outcomes and political futures are more important than miscellaneous matters of a pandemic raging through the county. Switched to reading all day. 

  1. Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes on Vaccine DarwinismIndia has always been a tough place; the callousness that comes with inequality is deeply inscribed in our social structure. Politics was supposed to mitigate at least the harshest edges of this inequality. Instead, what we are seeing in the politics of the BJP is the unleashing of an unvarnished social Darwinism, a ruthless exercise of power on behalf of the powerful: Majorities against minorities, state against dissenters, and big capital against small. The anger and frustration with Indian polity is understandable as far as the second wave of the pandemic is concerned. But, it seems that ‘social Darwinism’ and the cliched ‘survival of the fittest’ is interpreted in a sense that is much different from its biological origins. Evolution of species is a process that is not adversarial (like politics) but a consequence of a long, rather slow process of differentiation and changes within a population of a species happening over multiple generations. These details are necessary. Social (or whatever variety) of Darwinism is a hasty application of the concept. 
  1. Ruchir Sharma writes in Foreign Affairs – The 2020s now appear likely to unfold as a typical post war decade, with some emerging economies falling, others rising, and a few standing out as genuine stars. A few will continue to rise to prosperity through the tried-and-true method of export manufacturing. But more are likely to be energized by forces unleashed during or accelerated by the pandemic: rising commodity prices, new economic reforms, and, most unexpectedly, the digital revolution. The whole piece gushes with optimism that I find hard to share. The spirit of the post-war decade may not be a useful comparison to post-pandemic years (whenever they come). For one, the effects of the pandemic have led to staggering levels of inequality. The war at least united people and there were hardly any winning corporations. The same cannot be said of the pandemic. 
  2. This photo essay on a government hospital in Bhagalpur, Bihar by Danish Siddiqui of is a crushing reminder of the almost non-existent healthcare infrastructure the distant towns and districts of this country.
  3. The Economist’s special report on future of work is being optimistic about the labour market situation in the post-pandemic years and comes up with this – 
    • Focusing on the 37 countries that are members of the OECD club of mostly rich countries, it argues that popular perceptions about the world of work are largely misleading. The labour market before covid-19 was far from perfect, but it was better than many critics were claiming—and it was getting better still.
    • The pandemic has been a catastrophe for many, as this report will describe in detail. But its lasting legacy may be a better world of work, as it speeds changes that were already under way and highlights those places where further improvement is needed.The big question is whether, after the pandemic is over, labour markets can regain these heights and start once more working for people of all backgrounds. Far from making everything worse, this special report will argue that covid-19 will ultimately make things better by speeding up changes that were already under way. This will happen through a number of routes.
    • Thanks to the rise of remote work, more people will have more flexibility over when, where and how they earn their living. Few bosses will be wholly indifferent as to whether their employees are working in New York or in Niue. But the shift to a “hybrid” model of work, with some taking place in an office and some at home, is already forcing managers to become better communicators, improving employees’ job satisfaction. It is also stimulating helpful and long overdue changes in employment law.

It is hard to say all of the above especially when the effect of altered workflows and remote working in a non-pandemic context is unknown. In face of an immediate shock businesses transitioned to remote working in the interest of continuity. But will this become universal is hard to predict right now. It will need disaggregated data on firms productivity and cost savings and sector-wise analysis. Perhaps, rise of remote work is being overrated.

4 thoughts on “Pandemic, politics and realities

  1. Found this, and your previous post, very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing many relevant articles, which I plan to read slowly. The question of labour conditions improving clearly does not apply to the unorganised sector in our country. The new labour laws are going to put them in an an even more vulnerable situation than they already are. Let’s hope the political tide is turning and the less privileged people get a fairer share of the pie.

  2. The photo essay is just heart-wrenching. Dr. Kumar is a hero! How do we thank people like him, and how do we help the poor sufferers? With money and through votes? That doesn’t seem to cut it. One feels so helpless.

    1. I share the feeling. From the current situation perspective it seems helpless. It would mean much if health system and R&D efforts can improve in this country after this spell of loss and grief.

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