TODAY -

Lockdown and livelihood

Shimreisa Chahongnao *

 Essential food items distributed to Tarao Laimanai inhabited by smallest community of Manipur, Tarao Tribe, amidst COVID-19 crisis :: April 23 2020 .
Essential food items distributed to Tarao Laimanai amidst COVID-19 crisis on April 23 2020 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam / Lamdamba Oinam



India has survived a lengthy ordeal with Covid 19 which is yet to see its end. Meanwhile, faring well economically during the lockdown lies in breaking down an area into smaller manageable grades said Asim Khwaja, Director, Centre for International Development, Harvard University. Here, the approach which the concerned authority uses to structure and enhance the containment is crucial for the economy.

Also, if manageable areas are demarcated, two questions of priority emerge, Life vs. money and life vs. life. While the former is a dilemma in the west, the latter is a reality for the underdeveloped and some developing countries.

As one contemplates about the life vs life predicaments, parameters involved in managing the lockdown that are the wheels to combat the pandemic surfaces:delaying infection, targeting social protection, health imperatives, food security, logistical supports, etc. It could be overwhelming to prioritize among these measures yet is a necessity.

Several factors come into play to understand the respective parameters that we, as a society, develop to deal with this pandemic and it becomes essential to contextualize the issue. For instance, delaying infection does not matter if we do not have medical and strategic preparedness to deal with it in the coming days said Ahmed Mobarak, a Yale economist, after doing the regulation-compliance-result analysis in Bangladesh.

One of prime reason is that the poor cannot survive without work, so the strategy for delaying infection cannot hold water when it comes to livelihood. More than that, most of the underdeveloped and developing countries rely heavily on the informal sector with most of them engaged in daily wage activities.

Therefore, as medical preparedness and search for the vaccine continues, it may be beneficial to channel proportionate energy and investment in ensuring small cluster work and food security with the insistence of reliance on technological transactions in such situation. It is a necessity to perpetuate livelihood with the new normal.

However, loopholes here and there are inevitable in channelling means of livelihood and several countries has paid the price dearly. Our health imperatives can be a good safeguard during such a disaster. Being aware of our susceptibility factors, population density, and shielding measure are some critical aspect that we can keep focusing on along with the continuous monitoring of our epidemiological situation.

If such demographic, geographic and strategic elements are consolidated, allowing monitored outdoor micro-economic activities consistently that deals with essential commodities in tandem with the basic social regulations become possible. Investing in these areas can be useful for the long run than to focus mostly on our macro-economic aspect.

To improve upon the consolidation of our preparedness, there is a paramount need to break the disjunction between knowledge and power at times like this. Mending this disjuncture becomes pivotal in targeting social protection.

For instance, if direct information about travel history from the individuals concerned is not available to enforce quarantine, telecommunication companies, travel agencies, etc., are an excellent source for the political leaders to collate with and bridge the bureaucratic disjunction.

Realizing the pivot of such connection by every concerned citizen is very crucial because, only then an area with the potential spread of infection can be assessed, determined and prevented.

Of the looming challenges at large, one of our immediate and biggest concerns is food security. Hoarding, overpricing, impeding supply chain, etc. that are pernicious to implementing food security must be checked scrupulously.

The community organizationsí participation which had facilitated checking this process should be empowered and encouraged. It is also pertinent to see that social benefit measures are closely knitted with a steady though it could be meagre income for sustenance.

In most of the villages, sustenance is basically self-reliant. So, for many households, it is a nightmare to sustain month-long in door confinement. While allowing relatively more relaxed regulations, social benefits transfer in kind or cash greatly ameliorates their hardships.

Such programmes must be continued by educating and enlisting community participants, deploying frugal innovators and putting conditional support like social distancing, report of symptomatic encounter, etc. considering many people in the villages cannot use apps like Arogya setu. These enhance social influence strategy and optimum resource utilization.

With the economic downturn and regulation over many activities are still in place, large-patch migration in days is still due as many people cannot afford the constant yet exorbitant cost of living in urban areas.

Most of the categorical people are forced to look for social support in rural areas for a better chance of livelihood in the current situation. These urban-rural dynamics greatly hinges on our logistical arrangements.

Inter-state cooperation and support for the incomer have become indispensable. All these situations make it tacit that our priorities to structure and enhance the containment and monitoring regulations should be context-specific.

In other words, enforcing the same norms prevalent in urban areas to rural areas in every respect is to be ignorant of the livelihood challenges that we as a categorical society face today.

Likewise, it is necessary to realise for the health of the economy that the regulations placed on the formally structured economy cannot be the same for the informal economy specifically in rural areas even though conditional restrictions are put in place.


* Shimreisa Chahongnao wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Research Scholar at School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi
The writer can be contacted at scshimre(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 06 2020.



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