We have a problem in our beings in the form of a virus! Not the Covid-19, that we are all so scared of. Something far more dangerous. It lies within our senses especially the one we call common because it is widely found among human beings. We lose it at critical times! We panic when we are required to demonstrate consistency. We are careless when we must display the utmost care and concern about our fellow beings.
What’s happening in India in the pretext of today's lockdown? We rush to procure things, stand in endless queues, the principle of social distancing forgotten. Proximity becomes a necessity because of the short procurement windows and the prevailing anxiety of the availability of essential items for daily living. Many people who are in trade are trying to make hay while the sun shines on them, charging extra on their existing stocks to make few extra bucks off hard-pressed people. They do it without compunction or guilt. Its a chance to build a nest egg for a rainy day, the consequences on the populace be damned. No doubt, that what goes around, comes around, but by then it will be too late for many of us.
Moral Governance: People are stranded in many places, especially migrant labor. They traveled across the country to earn their bread, but today they have neither bread nor home. They are stuck in strange environs with no social support as states and cities lock down their borders! Inward glances have now become an eagle-eyed gaze!
Is there anyone helping them to reach their homes safely? Many are starving in the streets! Can anyone come forward to volunteer support for the needy? Yes, there are a few NGOs working off the soles of their shoes, and sweating in their masks to do that. But is it enough? These guys need mental and emotional support too. And then, for some, the total lockdown is like the burn of a cigarette butt. Painful and one that will definitely leave a scar. They too need emotional and mental support.
But that seems like a tough call in a lockdown situation. Luckily, even as the Government is trying hard to cope and treat the physical effects of the virus, the All India Psychiatric Social Workers Association, has through its members across India, set up a helpline for emotional support to those whose emotions are strained by their plight or the perception of their plight. A move that will offer solace to those in need of support in this difficult time. A list of on-call personnel is appended below.
Are bribes the order of the day? Are Public funds being diverted or swindled in the name of relief? Is there profiteering by a few? These are questions that hard-pressed citizens are asking. Rumors abound and some instances quoted do seem real, but in this unreal situation, where fear for our lives is greater than our fear of being ripped off, we must perhaps apply Socrates three test rule when we listen to or tell others what we "believe" is true... "Do I know for sure I am speaking the Truth?, Am I going to narrate a story of goodness?" and the third, "will whatever I say, be useful to the person it is being told to?"
What about the behavior of authorities in these times of distress? Is it excessive, adequate or inadequate? Is anyone monitoring them and by what standards? And if it is anything other than adequate, what is the remedy or is there one, given our political and administrative set up where the judge and the jury often combine for "public good?". Difficult questions that must be addressed appropriately.
What about the media? Are they playing the role they are mandated to? Are they free to perform their duties? Is there transparency in what we do, especially when it is most needed? Are some of us looking to exploit the situation for our own vested interests?
Questions are aplenty, and all the questions are a quest for Humaneness in these critical times. Being humane as distinct from being human, is the first and only principle we must follow in these critical times. Nothing matters today, status, position, wealth, fame, creed, caste or nationality. Covid-19 has proved that it does not distinguish between its victims. And as we are confined to our homes for fear of contracting the dreaded flu, or by executive compulsion, everything we lived and worked for is now worthless. We are human, but to ensure that ALL humans stay alive, including us, we must be humane!
Our own needs must take a back seat, even as we use our intelligence to help others. Here are a few things that we can do. The list, of course, is endless.
Provide for Safe Working Zones: Safe work timings and safe work practices are the need of the hour. Work from home, short shifts, with fewer people to ensure social distancing, provision of adequate PPE's should be provided to those who have to work to ensure society functions.
Non-essential goods and services providers should totally shut down to prevent the chain of contact. Of course, this will have an impact on their investment, employment and the economy, and that needs to be addressed separately.
Those who earn their living on a daily basis - small vendors, Housemaids, domestic help, Small artisans like plumbers / Carpenters, etc - are the key to social distancing as they travel between homes and visit multiple households. That they must render their services to stay alive and help society cope with their daily issues better is paradoxical as their services will also promote the spread of the virus, endangering their own and others' lives. They cannot of course work from home, so what then is the solution for them? We have to brainstorm and come together to come up with a solution.
Quarantine works when people are humane and care. Then freedom is self tempered, like glass, transparent and fragile.
It is the exuberance of youth that perhaps needs to be channeled for the benefit of all in these critical times. They have the energy and a sense of compassion, that if channeled well can be of great value in these difficult times. Religious leaders today have their best opportunity to lead the youth in this endeavor, but sadly their initiatives are not very visible at this point in time.
Religious establishments, Clubs, Schools, hostels can be converted into hospitals, testing centers and perhaps even soup kitchens and shelters with adequate precautions.
Fast food that is not so fast: These are difficult times, food is scarce and access to food for many, especially the marginalized is difficult. The food processing industry, Agricultural and food scientists must come up with innovative ideas like they did with instant noodles or coffee to enable faster and more hygienic food accessibility and distribution.
There are opportunities galore to be humane, but we must visualize them, grab them, and make good use of them for ourselves and our fellow human beings.
We have great opportunities to be humane today - with our family - to work at home even as we work from home, spend time with the ones we love in person at home or over the zoom app if they are away, take time out to appreciate nature, which seems to have regained its lost glory, as people replace the rat race for success with survival, and to be in some way or other of help to our fellow human beings.
We have the time. We must put it to good use for ourselves, by learning, improving and interacting, and for others, by serving, helping and giving. We are lucky indeed that Digital connectivity has preceded these tough times - It has helped us stay connected even as we are compelled to disconnect!
Tough times have always brought out the best in us. Let our best be humaneness is all I ask.
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