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Coronavirus: Poor at receiving end

Coronavirus: Poor at receiving end
Highlights

This is with reference to the report ‘Under Siege’ on page 1 of The Hans India (23 March).

This is with reference to the report 'Under Siege' on page 1 of The Hans India (23 March). As the virus has trickled down to the poor from the rich, and enters its community-spread phase, the challenge of adequately reporting on how the working classes are being affected is huge.

A country with a sharp class divide, and an inept public broadcaster has a serious problem when a lethal epidemic is at large. Now that we have moved from identifying infected individuals to containing community spread, saving lives depends on access to accurate information for the widest number as much as it does on access to widespread testing and medicare.

But much of the media that is focused on reporting on the coronavirus does not reach the people at the bottom of the pyramid. And if it did, it would not serve their purpose. They neither need social media, nor data journalism, nor interviews with virologists and doctors to make sense of what they and their families are up against.

They need effective messaging on the pandemic — what to watch out for and where to go for help, depending on where they live. And how to avail of the monetary help the government might be giving.

The pandemic is being reported to death. Ditto the economic havoc it is causing, including the stock market crashes. But its likely victims in the next phase are not being reported on. There is the access-to-water-sanitisers-and-safeguards part of the story.

How is testing taking place for this segment of the population? Then there are the consequences of lay-offs and shrinking work in the unorganised labour sector to be reported on, as economic activity shrinks further in an already straitened economy.

Who will do that on a regular basis? Beyond some websites, the working class is not on the radar of most media, except very sporadically.

Steffi Suresh, Hyderabad

II

The scary coronavirus remains evasive and imperceptible, attacking its victims on the sly, and without a war cry. And we humans on the receiving end remain helpless and frail in the face of a fully-programmed assault.

Donald Trump's nuclear arsenal, or the armoured vehicles of the Revolutionary Islamic Guard in Iran carrying the banners declaring 'Operation Crackdown on the Coronavirus', or PM Narendra Modi's '56-inch chest' are of no consequence.

The dominant nations of the world are indeed caught flatfooted for once in the face of the speed of the spread of the enemy that is unheard of in the history of modern combat warfare. Deeply ideological and aesthetic questions arise from such a belligerence.

One thing is loud and clear; the ethics of war are apparently missing in the history of our civilisation except in the Hellenic period. If humanity has no ethics in confronting its enemies, why should the Covid-19?

Maybe, it is a lesson at this juncture to change the ways in which the other is looked upon, the way we turn away the homeless exiles from our borders and the way we so heartlessly engage in merciless violence, leaving many in pain for their lost dear ones.

Moreover, when the virus has struck in the 'wet markets' of meat-eating people, the question of the ethics of animal rights foregrounds not only the value of animals, but also of what it is to be human.

We urgently need to strategise continually to defend ourselves through some semblance of principled behaviour towards those we inhumanly consider our enemies. Maybe, we need to learn to keep our environment clean with absolute respect for nature as well as for human and animal rights.

The human crisis we face should somewhat blunt our racist or carnivorous appetite, a manifestation of our apathetic concern for the world we live in.

Our nemesis lies in our assault not only on nature, but also on our very own species. For too long we have considered the scales enormously on our side, allowing great harm to the world around us for the sake of benefits. It is now payback time.

Srikar Kothapalli, Vijayawada, AP

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