By Vivek Pattanayak*
Pandemic has claimed more than two hundred thousand lives, affected more than two million people, young and old, rich and poor, high and mighty. It has spread to all continents and has entered practically all the countries in the world. The lockdown is everywhere. With disruption of air transport, road and railway service and shipping, the supply chain both national and international has been crippled, the economies have been devastated causing loss of jobs creating unprecedented unemployment, and unspeakable misery for the poor and down-trodden stuck at unknown places and unfamiliar terrain far from the near and dear ones.
Despite this all-pervasive global gloom, we should thank our stars that the communication system is still intact since computer virus has not so far wrecked the internet. The telephone system is unaffected. Mobile phone continues to buzz with messages, instant news, and bulletins. People send emails, exchange video clipping of events on WhatsApp and even watch movies. TV service is unaffected with news and entertainment programs. Electricity and water supply are unaffected. Banks are operating. Professionals are working from home. Schools and colleges are providing services for remote learning. Food and medicines are accessible.
Physical infrastructure still exists. Roads, railways, airports and seaports are still undamaged. Buses, trucks, cars, autos, rail engines, coaches and wagons, aircraft, helicopters, drones and ships and vessels are all in good condition. What would have been the case if there would been a global war with bombs, missiles, shells and mortars damaging infrastructure and claiming both military and civilian lives. There has been no big earthquake, no volcanic eruptions, not even tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons or even super-cyclones which could have damaged infrastructure and claimed lives. Almighty God deserves all praise of having spared the people from that catastrophic situation.
We should count on what assets we still have. Although many precious lives including that of doctors, nurses, medical supporting staff and policemen have been lost we have not lost our knowledge and skill and more importantly men and women who still possess them are ready to restart the life of human society.
People know more about this pandemic than any other pandemic of the recent history. They have become more aware about personal hygiene than ever before.
Although there is any number of bellicose statements in certain places, emotions are high and political bickering is showing its ugly face, the nations and society still have sensible people. The doctors, nurses, and other medical staff while risking their lives are fighting a war against the common enemy with unflinching dedication and indomitable courage. Policemen are maintaining peace with all odds and challenges with sparkling commitment despite risk to their health, body fatigue and mental tension.Military personnel are providing much needed assistance to civil administration during this emergency.Nameless and faceless civil servants across the board are working with integrity and equanimity standing like rock of Gibraltar against the tempests of uncertainties. Media men and women and volunteers are showing tremendous sense of duty.
This is the time for unity across the world despite political, economic, social, cultural, racial, linguistic and religious differences. Within national boundaries there should be closer cooperation between the central governments, and state or provincial governments and local administrations. At the international level there should be more of consultations and less of confrontations. UN system provides the necessary irreplaceable platform for unity and united action. Let the leaders realize that the institutions which have grown over decades should not be destroyed by momentary passion to gain political popularity to remain in power. This is no time for flippancy.
The medical scientists, virologists, epidemiologists, and microbiologists are all making their efforts to find vaccine and develop drug for cure. WHO and UN system can provide the most required umbrella for the common cause. This is not the time to start deglobalization by government initiative although there may be political pressure for it. There is nothing wrong in encouraging national, and local entrepreneurs to produce locally goods which are imported. One should recognize that no country can be fully self-sufficient without imports and not even big economies. Any mercurial decision and an unwise attempt to prevent movement of skill and expertise will only hurt the countries and the world. This will precipitate another needless crisis.
Undoubtedly the lockdown has caused tremendous amount of inconvenience but this was necessary to contain the exponential spread of disease giving opportunity to governments to provide temporary hospitals, arrange Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), masks, sanitizers, testing equipment and oxygen and ventilators. There is no place for complacency as this virus may stay longer period than we wish. Better be safe than sorry.
Selectively certain safe zones should be opened. Social distancing should be enforced on the workplaces, shops, banks etc. Elderly should be encouraged to stay at home. People coming out should wear masks. Hand washing facilities should be provided in public places. Sanitization should be done massively.
Industrial facilities of MSME sector should be harnessed to manufacture masks, sanitizers, alcohol swipes, PPEs, or large undertakings utilized in production of ventilators. Government and its undertakings should procure this equipment. In buses and trains, there should be social distancing in allocation of seats so also in airplanes. Rules of sanitation should be strictly followed. Since oil price has fallen, airline industry can take advantage of this by carrying less passenger load while recommencing flights.
Rural areas and agriculture sector should be supported while non-residents and migrants return. Quarantine, sanitation and personal hygiene should be constantly in the view.
The governments and central banks have responded with number of relief measures which should be the basis of resuscitation of economies throughout the world. Scope for further measures do exist. If there is openness in the mind, and doors and windows for ideas are not shut or not nipped in the bud peremptorily, every country can bring the economy to the previous stage.
Every crisis is the beginning of an opportunity. Positive spirit is needed in an hour of distress. Optimism is the name of the game. Each generation plays the same.
*The author is a former bureaucrat and held important positions in aviation and power regulatory body. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.