With COVID-19 hopscotching around the world, the phase of graded and colour-coded lockdown has created new borders and inequalities. The existence of two India’s has already turned into a reality and occasional shooing away and lectures of finding a job, that used to be delivered to a derelict on a traffic signal have reduced.
Although the pandemic has zero respect for privilege and has crashed economies and communities, the elite class continues to segregate mankind into well-constructed departments.
As the rich segregate themselves in luxurious apartments and share work-out videos, the poor family of five tries social distancing in one single room.
Amid the nation’s chaotic battle against COVID—19, the government is possessed with the plan to redevelop the three-kilometre long stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate and millions of workers continue to be sanitized with disinfectants used to clean floors.
Words like “basic” and “necessities” no longer have one meaning. We see someone baking a fancy chocolate pastry on the Instagram story and at the same time, we are informed about the death of a twelve-year-old child who walked over hundred of kilometres from her workplace in Telangana to her native village in Chhattisgarh.
The most important question which arises here is whether humans will become more selfish post-COVID? Will a new level of stigmatization and untouchability emerge?
Majority of the migrant workers, which includes the painters, welders and electricians used to work on a contract basis. As we continue to think about the impending economic crisis and ways in which the industries dependent on labourers could start working again, the real implications could be on their families. However, it is not only the loss of wages which is concerning but also the rise of domestic violence and sexual abuse as reported by authentic newspapers.
The lockdown has proved that digital India is still a myth and the suicide of a Dalit student from Kerela on 1st June 2020 is a witness to this. With notifications of online classes and assignments piling up, access to the internet is still a luxury. So will zoom notifications become the school and college bells which used to ring every hour?
The world is embracing for doomsday by cutting the wages and firing employees, which goes on to prove that the epoch of misery is almost there for the downtrodden section of the society.
Every salary cut of an employee from the middle class means a cut of wages for those in the informal sector. The cycle does not stop here, the demand for various basic essentials are reduced. Since every person outside the home is a potential carrier of COVID-19, the man who irons shirts will lose his livelihood and the maid who takes a local train every morning at five, would not even be allowed to step into the workplace.
Earlier untouchability was measured by caste but in a post- COVID world it could be defined by poverty and occupation. It is time to understand that maintaining even the most basic hygiene is a problem in a country like India, where an entire community shares the same washroom and gets water supply only at seven in the morning and evening.
Social distancing will obviously become a strategy for human survival and might get incorporated into the social life, but how will it be implemented in Asia’s largest slum in a post-COVID world?
Untouchability and stigmatization might be witnessed at a horizontal level this time, and instead of segregating people in terms of “social purity” we might segregate them in terms of “biological body.”
As we deal with the huge social problems, tiny problems at the level of individuals might also crop up. Social psychologists believe that individuals might be affected by the constant fear of uncertainty which could lead to the alteration of personalities and the emergence of a new human.
We will face an existential crisis, and getting the common flu or even cough and cold will turn us into suspicious social animals scared of losing their lives. Isolation of the elderly would lead to loneliness and they might suffer from depression and anxiety.
The readymade replacements for a handshake or a hug which are a wave or nod and even a mobile emoticon in some cases would turn into permanent social gestures while meeting and greeting.
Humans will become more apprehensive and the plans for a world tour which is already there, in so many buckets, might get cancelled. Emotionally scarred humans might continue to wash vegetables with detergents and the atheist world might become God-fearing believing that this is an affliction sent as a punishment.
With 388,244 deaths as of June 4, 2020, all over the world and the overwhelming incidence of social distancing being practised, this mammoth is drowning our foresight.
Few scholars believe that a much better human would emerge out of this lockdown but the disharmony and insensitivity which was created as a result of panic buying goes on to prove that mankind is a selfish race.
It is too early to predict human behaviour and even a post-COVID world because instead of showing gratitude to the frontline warriors, we as a community, have discriminated against them and subjected them to emotional turmoil in an already unfavourable condition.
Only a promise or a lecture about “better tomorrow” will not help this time, society needs concrete help in terms of money and food.
As the most technologically advanced community fights this battle at the cost of mental health, loss of life and livelihood, the political vocabulary while defining deprivation might shift from caste to class.
The sweepers, Doms and Dhangars might acquire new strength because hygiene, sanitation and waste disposal has become important. This pandemic is a result of human actions and today we are taking actions only because humans are at risk. Tomorrow when this pandemic ends, global warming and climate change wouldn’t be a big concern because people will not die immediately.