Mahatma Gandhi wrote:” The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” This statement, taken in the spirit, indicates that a nation’s greatness lies in caring for the ones who are dependent on others. These dependents can be children, old, women, and the working class at large. The currently prevailing Covid-19 pandemic has proven that we are a country that does not treat its dependents fairly but considers their suffering an acceptable notion.
The current pandemic has improved our vocabulary. “Comorbidity,” i.e., existing medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, or organ failures, is a buzzword these days. Generally, a person with comorbidity is more susceptible to Covid-19 complications, which may lead to death. Without going into statistics, the comorbidities of the poor in India are much more than the affluent can imagine. Can we imagine a family walking to their some thousand kilometres distant homeland and the woman suffer from diarrhoea when there are no public toilets or any shelter on the road? Coronavirus infection is dangerous, but the circumstances in which our labour class lives today are a source of morbid danger. Many of the women who are domestic help or work in construction or small factories suffer from anemia. Many people who work on construction sites or in factories suffer from tuberculosis and skin infections. Healthcare for these people, who possess the comorbidity of not getting a good living and working space, is the biggest challenge in front of our nation. It is no less than the Covid-19 challenge.
The people who live in makeshift shelters or on the streets are subject to a lot of violence and bullying. Most of these sufferings are gratuitous. These people suffer from persistent depression and anxiety due to the instability of life and poverty. A social disconnect further aggravates their worries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the lot visible to the affluent, but it is only the iceberg’s surface. A much greater number of the laborers who remained buried in their infested and pregnable shelters have little more comfort than the other migrants.
These facts are depressing. Most of the time, we express our sorrows and forget these people. We conclude that it is a big problem and we cannot do anything. We know where the problem lies. Provision of basic housing, healthcare, and education needs strong social policies. We must ensure that we are the people who elect the policy-makers. We should get rid of the notion that these social problems are unavoidable. Its treatment of the less-privileged determines the strength and greatness of the nation. Are we going to change the treatment, or we are happy to remain a mediocre country?
It is the responsibility of a mature nation to ensure that all its citizens should have access to primary utilities for a good life. After independence, a continuous effort to economic prosperity has helped India to provide these resources to a large number of its people. Despite these efforts, many of the subjects of Mother India are in limbo. However, this growth has also left crores of the poorest of the country in misery. The very poor are subject to mass voting, which makes them a robust political influencer as a class. But they do not possess the political power to entitle them a fair share in the nation’s prosperity. India has rapidly transitioned itself to a middle-income country. But the statistics are quite skewed, it consists of the largest number of most impoverished people in the world, and one-third of the world’s wealthiest people reside in this country.
A primary reason why India cannot help its poorest is the paucity of infrastructure and low income. Proper distribution of the resources is not possible because of low revenues, limited human resources, and, potentially, a lack of technical know-how. This reasoning suggests that a critical role of development policy is to strengthen state capacity for program delivery. India could ride the information technology boom because we geared up our workforce to meet the market’s needs. The approach needs widespread use now so that we skill-up ourselves to manufacturing, services, and communication. The coronavirus epidemic has closed many doors, but it has opened a lot more possibilities. We can build a prosperous society based on mutual aid. If we give utmost importance to our ethical values, care for people, and keep our democracy alive, we can benefit from this epidemic as a nation.