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Economic Struggles During COVID-19: “Pandemic Is More Democratic Than The Present Govt”

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The pandemic is more democratic than the present government.

It has damaged everyone’s emotions equally ranging from the glamorous filmy world to the houses of politicians. It has affected everyone symmetrically sounds like a rational prima facie, but it contains enormous flaws. In the space of heterogeneity, where it’s impossible to find equal social status, it is quite similar to the concept of genetics. In the theory of modern genetics, it has been proved that no individual shares the same genetic material and this leads to the great variation in the phenotypic character, which is basically the physical body. The same applies to the concept of inequality, and no two families can share the same socio-economic status.

Representational image.

How Covid Affects Families Differently

For instance, two people Shyam and Raju working in the same firm in the same position, which means having equal pay but they are not the same “socially’’. How? Out of these two, Shyam is young, has newly joined, has a better financial background, and healthy life. Whereas Raju is in his mid-career, head of a family of six, the first person from the family to get a job, and has hereditary diabetes. Even if both get the same remuneration, their lifestyle varies significantly.

Shyam can spend a lot of money on fashion, gadgets, clothing, and can even think of investment and savings. Whereas Raju has an entire list: spending on medicine because he has diabetes, family expenditure because he is a mid-age man and there is a high probability that he has a family and kids. So other expenditures may be school fees, house rent, or a home loan because he is the first from his family to get a job. This implies he must have to send some part of the salary to his parents.

It shows how no two people can share the same socio-economic status. When the circumstances are not the same for two people, how can Covid-19 affect everyone without discrimination? Putting this to our old example of Shyam and Raju, suppose COVID according to its behaviour hits both Raju and Shyam. Now, who is at a higher risk? Raju or Shyam? Shyam is young now, has savings on his name, a financially supportive family, and above all, he is healthy. He is at a lower risk and can additionally bear the hospital bills.

In contrast, Raju a mid-age diabetic man, his family is totally dependent on him. Due to heavy family expenditures, he couldn’t save or invest money in the past, and is now at a higher risk first from the aspect of an unhealthy body and second from the unhealthy monetary strength of the family. From this, we can assume who is going to be affected more by this democratic disease.

Assume that by fortune, both Raju and Shyam recover from the disease and return home after 20 days of hospitalization. Both their lives have drastically changed now. Shyam seems to be able to afford the hefty bills of the hospitals because of his financially stable family and his savings. Additionally, because he was relatively healthy, the disease did not affect him much.

Whereas the case of Raju seems much more complex. Hospital bills could put him under many loans and debts and this crisis maybe even bigger than COVID. According to Anirudh, Krishna, “Illness is one of the major factors which create a new pool of poverty in India, and this may be due to the bad infrastructure of India.”

Online Education Has Become A Privilege Not Easily Accessible By All

Illness increases inequality to a large extent as it consumes money in either large sum at once like the case of COVID or road accidents or small chunks for a long duration like cancer. Many developmental economists say inequality is good for a progressive society; inequality gives the motive to work more to earn more. The pandemic is increasing inequality and is not only affecting people’s monetary reservoirs but also affecting many other things and paving way for further unequal society.

Education and learning have been more affected by it than any other sector. Migration into the country and out of the country for the purpose of education has been significant. Students have been compelled to sit in front of mobiles, tablets, PCs, and laptops screens. Access to the internet is obligatory in addition to the above mentioned luxurious gadgets (not luxurious for all but for many) to continue the learning.

This might be easy for someone who went abroad to study. Let’s think about those primary school kids who used to go to government colleges because their parents couldn’t afford the fees of private institutions. Now in the period of lockdown, are the parents able to afford new smartphones with internet connection for their ward’s studies? Seems illusory? Think of why their parents were not able to pay their ward’s school fees; the answer may be the parent’s informal employment.

In the lockdown, the worst-hit sector is also the informal-sector – the vendors, the daily wage workers, the unskilled labourers, the local shop owners such as mithaiwalas (sweet shop owners). Do we think they can afford extra new gadgets for the education of their kid apart from the fees and internet connection? This will contribute a lot to the inequality gap. Those who are already well off can provide their child with all the necessities.

In contrast, those who were at the bottom of the pyramid will face the crisis, which is significantly clear from the news. A girl in tenth grade died by suicide due to the unavailability of mobile phones at home which prevented her from attending online classes. In other news, parents sold their cow to get their child a smartphone to attend online classes – later actor cum philanthropist, Sonu Sood helped them get their cow back. Isn’t it a job of our government to make things easier for people during this time?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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