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.
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.”
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?