Let’s face the reality. The pandemic of coronavirus, or COVID-19, is here to stay for very long, or at least till we manage to get a vaccine for its cure and be able to produce it to the extent that it becomes readily available to all citizens of all countries alike. The task looks almost impossible, considering our past experiences with providing such medication to those who live on the margins, especially in the global south. However, India can take the lead in this. We have been known to produce valuable life-saving drugs at abysmally low prices. Our pharma sector has been one of the flagship sectors of our manufacturing industries and has earned laurels all throughout the world due to its efficiency as well as price.
Also, it has helped in gaining a lot of goodwill for us especially in the African and Latin American countries which have dilapidated health infrastructure. Very recently, we have sent HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine), the drug which is believed to be helpful in the fight against corona to countries like US, Brazil, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, bringing in applauds from all quarters, be it from President Trump of the US or President Bolsonaro of Brazil.
Yet, this pandemic has also highlighted the inherent weakness of our pharma sector due to its over-dependence of API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) from China. However, the Indian pharma sector can not be singled out for its over-reliance on China for raw materials. The entire structure of the global value chain has become such that no country can claim itself to be completely free from its dependence on China in some or the other from.
But as states learn to stand up after suffering immensely from Corona induced lockdown, they would realise that they cannot do usual business with China and they will have to renegotiate its terms with China at any cost, especially since there has been massive anger rising against China in Europe and America due to various acts of omission and commission by China in hiding facts related to Coronavirus.
We too need to restructure our industrial policy, especially programmes like ‘Make in India’, ‘Stand Up India’, ‘Startup India’ to deal with the new realities of Post Covid World where supply chains would be deeply disrupted and economic anarchy would be the order of the day with states after states looking more inwards for investments and providing job to its own citizens on a priority basis. This is especially concerning for a country like ours that has highly benefited from flow of foreign capital in the last three decades, be it in the form of FDI or remittances.
Challenges are manifold, but so are opportunities. We were not in a position then to shape post World War due to our own nascent emergence as an independent nation very recently. But now we have the required strength and capabilities to shape post corona world and lead it from the front, instead of being merely a passive observer to it. India under PM Modi has shown this kind of resolve in the talks about climate change and solar alliance and can do so further under his visionary leadership.
There has emerged a consensus among almost the majority of scholars and thinkers that post-corona world will be very different from the pre-corona world. However, there is no consensus on what shape would it take. There are apprehensions that globalisation would take the back seat and more statist world be a new reality. The all-encompassing state was never too good for the citizenry at large and former communist states are good examples of it. Due to globalisation, this state was cut short which paved the way for democratic norms and gave people more freedom as well liberty in all spheres of life. But now this ‘leviathan’ may come back with more arms and powers at its disposal.
It may seek to renegotiate our term of social contract with it, disproportionately in its favour. The advancement of technology has also empowered the state to go for massive surveillance of citizens and keep a tight vigil on it, all in the name of ‘protection’ of the citizens. And interestingly, it won’t even be despised by a large number of people, considering the paranoia they have developed in their minds due to the current pandemic. So, police-state may also become a reality in the foreseeable future with basic tenants of globalisation- liberty, free movement and freedom- becoming its biggest casualty.
In any case, even during the peak of globalisation in the twenty-first century, free flow of labour was free only by name, unlike ideas, goods and capital. But now even these virtues won’t be free and states would want to curb more and more. The departure of Adam Smith, Hayek and Friedman would pave the way for the arrival of Stalin, metaphorically. And it won’t be good at all for innovations, ideas, dissent and democracy.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the citizens as to how they manage to regulate the state and its affairs in post corona world by creating a fine balance between liberty and health. Considering the crackdown on media in various countries during this time, it won’t be surprising that anyone questioning the narrative of state would not be taken very kindly by the state. If the world would witness State 2.0 with massive power to curb the liberty, there can be no reason as to why there cannot be Citizen 2.0 who is ready to zealously guard his democratic freedom and economic liberty.