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Pandemic or no pandemic, it's taxpayer who bleeds

Pandemic or no pandemic, itCoronavirus Pandemic
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Life or livelihood? This is the question we debated during the first India-wide lockdown. The debate resurfaced within two minutes of Prime Minister...

Life or livelihood? This is the question we debated during the first India-wide lockdown. The debate resurfaced within two minutes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying 'Jai Hind' on Tuesday at 10.20 am. That shows how social media is being maintained or managed to come up with different viewpoints even before it has sunk into one's mind.

While there were those who said 'Jaya ho Modi', there were others who said, 'Modi's address to the nation coincided with the telecast of Ramayan on Doordarshan and both called for sacrifice'. Some were pessimistic saying apparently the 21-day lockdown did not get the desired results. Ask any social media activist what matters to them most - economy or their life? Instant reply would be obviously life. That is what Modi also said.

Before we discuss this issue a little more in detail, we need to introspect our role in extension of lockdown. If you switch on the TV or open a newspaper or any magazine, it is all about Covid-19. Even analysts and writers for the last one month have been writing tons of articles only on Covid-19. There is no single party or leader who gives "expert" advices like 'take paracetamol or sit under sun' but asks people to follow social distancing and use mask to prevent the spread of virus. But when it comes to implementation, all have been violating the guidelines with impunity.

The leaders are more interested in photo options while distributing essentials rather than maintaining social distance or using masks. Neither they nor the beneficiaries use masks. But interestingly, people in tribal areas seem to be more disciplined. Even in remote places like Assam, social distancing is being well maintained. People in many places think they are law unto themselves. In Hyderabad, old city or new city, it does not matter, and people are not following the guidelines. In old city, the number of people coming on to roads is more and no MLA takes up the responsibility to ensure implementation of the guidelines. No Minister or leader, whether he is from the Opposition or the ruling party, has shown any courage to talk about the violations of guidelines in the old city. When that happens, naturally containing spread of coronavirus becomes difficult and stricter lockdown becomes inevitable. Some say Narendra Modi should take a call as there was poor communication about the need to observe social distancing. Was it so? Certainly not. Apparently, people refuse to register in their brains what they see or read in print.

Coming to the question of livelihood, yes, it has hit every section of the society. The Centre and State governments have been asking people and the private sector to do many things without telling what they will do to help hapless people in times of the killer virus. In fact, they want the taxpayers to bear the entire brunt to meet the challenges. They ask us to show empathy, not to sack employees, give them full salary, feed as many poor as we can, and what not. They grant moratorium on loans but only to pay more after the lockdown.

But then, it was the government that was first to announce 50 percent cut in salaries. Reason, economy has taken a beating and no cash inflows, the CMs and PM say. If governments are facing financial crunch in just 21 days of lockdown, how do they expect other sectors to be swelling with cash when their operations have been stopped for 45 days.

Well, one thing is clear: for all ruling parties, lockdown has come as yet another opportunity to try and win certain sections and create vote bank for the next elections. The direct cash benefit system is being used to get maximum benefit by projecting themselves as messiah of the poor. For others, start your livelihood from scratch after lockdown is over since you opted for life first, seems to be the message.

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