The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal”, and lives in a society with harmony. Interaction among people and sharing their feelings makes human society more beautiful. Human beings have seen many ups and downs in their journey of evolution and have survived. But recently, one deadly virus—COVID-19—has completely stopped the functioning of our society and has impacted the lives of each individual in some way.
However, our society doesn’t function equally for all people, and therefore, it is really important to understand which section of our society is affected the most so that our government and civil societies can work with more efficiency. Before trying to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our society, we should know a little bit about this disease.
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The most recently discovered coronavirus causes COVID-19. It is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered strain. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally. For more information, please refer to the WHO website.
When I was in my post-graduation at TISS, Mumbai, studying social science, I got to know about many sociologists who have studied our society thoroughly and provided many theories. Among those sociologists, Abraham Maslow’s theory of Human Motivation or Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a very relevant theory during this pandemic to understand the psychology of human beings and how the functioning of our society is affected.
In this pyramid diagram, Maslow has explained in a simplistic way how people aspire to achieve things in their life. As per Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, people need food, water and a house which are the most basic things to survive in this society. Then, people look for belongingness, love and prestige. And after achieving basic and psychological needs, people look for creative activities, or in simple words, follow their passion.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the poor or daily wage labourers, who were already engaged in fulfilling their basic needs, will suffer more to achieve this because our economic activities are not functioning correctly. Even the Government of India announced the lockdown without proper preparation, and it created havoc for poor people. Now, the situation in states which were called prosperous is that they’ve disowned the poor.
The irony is that poor people are reverse migrating even though they know that their respective states are already poor and can’t provide jobs to them in this situation. It’ll be a challenge for poor states like Bihar, UP, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal to engage with the labourers in their respective states and provide basic needs to them.
There’s no specific research study or data available on the number of daily wage labourers and their migration. Some civil societies and research organisations working on the migrant labour issue suggest that most of them are from Adivasi and scheduled caste communities. As per some secondary reports, around 90% of our total population is engaged in the informal sector, and our government announced the lockdown without considering this major factor and without any proper preparation.
Firstly, we don’t know the exact number of people who are vulnerable due to the large number engaged in the informal sector, and they will suffer the most in our country. As per a poverty report by the Tendulkar committee, around 84 million of our total population is still below the poverty line. And after the COVID-19 pandemic, its impact will definitely increase the number of poor people in our country.
Due to this lockdown, many people have lost their jobs, and we have to wait for some time to get the data about job losses. It’s the government’s responsibility to at least arrange the basic needs of people so that our society can function properly. And if the government is able to manage the basic needs, as per Maslow’s theory, people can again aspire to achieve the next stages by themselves and our society will function properly.