Can Covid-19 push India towards systemic changes for a Swadeshi model of development
The whole world is grappling with a global threat in the form of COVID 19 and the pandemic has, quite evidently, uneven repercussions on different sections of the society. In the post-Covid-19 world there would be a re-negotiation of social interaction within the society as humans would be retreating from physical proximity, leading a more sequestered life. The political consequences could be envisaged in terms of restructuring of the global order and of international organisations like UN and WTO. This pandemic has also increased the possibility of India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. Most importantly, this pandemic has paved the way to create a different type of ‘normal or new normal’ which can re-establish the dominance of the state and reaffirm the fulfillment of social and economic rights.
Dr BR Ambedkar, in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly on 25 November 1949, said:
‘On the 26th of January 1950, ‘we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up’.
Dr Ambedkar clearly was of the opinion that modern democracy is not so much to put a curb on power of the state as to bring about the welfare of the people. The soul of democracy lies in the doctrine of ‘One Person One Value’.
After 72 years of Independence, we have not been able to realise the principle of ‘one person, one value’. Covid-19 has exposed the profound inequalities inherent in our society. Undoubtedly, all sections of the society have been affected by this pandemic. But it is a temporary crisis for the middle class since they have health insurance, work from home facility, ‘essential service providers’ serving the needs of this middle class at the cost of their health among other privileges. Those who would be facing the brunt of this pandemic are the menial workers; migrant labourers, daily wage earners, women labourers, sanitation workers etc). The hapless condition of the migrant workers who have been walking endlessly or cycling for days to reach their destination reflects a grim reality of globalisation. They are being pushed to the brink of survival. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which talks about Right to life and personal liberty is highly compromised during this current pandemic. The unequal treatment meted out to migrant workers and people coming from abroad had clearly shown the grave violation of the core value of our Constitution i.e ‘Dignity of the individual’. The question arises : Who is responsible for this ?