Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID-19

Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID-19

Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID-19: The conversation around the Covid-19 pandemic is dominated by challenges posed to human lives and global economies. As death tolls, stories of injustice and suffering exponentially rise, the established wisdom that every disaster entails opportunities is fading away from our imagination.

Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID-19

The unintended benefits of the novel coronavirus outbreak are already quite visible. The lockdown around the world with less cars on the road, less planes in the sky and slowing down of industrial activities have given a chance to the planet to breathe some fresh air and slowly heal. A significant improvement in the air quality and ozone layers’ recovery is being reported by scientists. Now a post Covid-19 world will be able to meet the goals set in the Paris Climate Accord.

The improvement caused by the horrific pandemic in our environment and eco-systems will now save millions of lives in the post-corona world. According to the World Health Organization, we were seeing 4.2 million premature deaths due to air pollution and 600,000 children died in 2016 from acute lower respiratory infections attributed to air pollution.

Our flawed economic system based on excessive exploitation of nature was ignoring critically important life-support systems. Loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, deforestation, use of pesticides, toxic waste in water sources, burning of fossil fuel, toxic air pollutants were already playing havoc with life on earth. Millions of human deaths are due to environmental degradation. Our right to health was already under attack in any case before the onslaught of Covid-19.

It is ironic that it took a coronavirus pandemic to make public health the top priority of the world today. The healthcare rights of the people as the fundamental responsibility of the state had been ignored for far too long. The pandemic has forced the realization amongst power-holders and policymakers that health is a public good. Their primary concern with the health of the economy is completely dependent on the health of people and not vice versa. Now when the coronavirus is at our doorstep, injection of massive financial resources into the health system cannot make up for the neglect of the health sector which has been shown to be ill-equipped globally to deal with such pandemics.

There is so much haste to go back to the ‘normal’ way of life. The novel coronavirus gives us the opportunity to deconstruct the ‘normal’, which is riddled with abnormalities. We can certainly make different choices. The opportunities created by the coronavirus have unfortunately escaped the attention of our government and the political class.

Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID-19

Recording Deaths with or without Covid-19

Covid-19 has raised many questions on the ability of India’s existing system to accurately record deaths caused by pandemics. In this context, this essay provides a detailed analysis of the existing mechanism for reporting deaths and births. It shows how the system lacks a consistent mechanism to capture the cause of death at the time of registration. As corrective measures, the authors recommend integration of Civil registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) and a central identity management system, regular audit of birth and death records and a state-wise action plan for addressing the flaws in the current system.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the Health Sector: What Have We Learned?

This essay lists a series of lessons related to public health learned during the pandemic and points out that the response to the pandemic in India relied heavily on National Disaster Management Authority’s policies which are not a health-specific policy formulation. The essay recommends a revised set of guidelines along the lines of Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework (PIPF). This framework proposes the setting up of surveillance centers, prediction mechanisms, laboratory networks and deployment of trained personnel. The essay concludes that there must also be efforts to improve the quality of data that is required for evidence-based policy making in the health sector.

School Education in the Post-Covid World

After surveying a series of problems that the education sector in India has faced during the pandemic, this essay says that online education which has gained rapid currency during the crisis period should not be seen an alternative to conventional education and should be used only as a support mechanism. However, noting that technology is going to remain at the core of improving education infrastructure and content, the essay says that there must be special focus on blended learning. Teacher training in the future must be designed keeping in mind these demands. It recommends the constitution of National and State level committees which will have experts from various fields to oversee resuming education and efforts to bridge the learning gaps.

Post Covid-19 Economic Challenges and Environmental Regulation

This essay reviews the policy changes which lowered the environmental standards to incentivize the recovery of the pandemic-hit Indian economy. It argues that to make the environmental response matter to the threat of pandemics, it is necessary to reorient environmental regulations to the objectives of public health and safety rather than to more economic growth.

Having experienced the health and economic catastrophe of the pandemic at a global scale, it would be sensible to not overlook the potential of environmental regulation to protect public health, and to prevent making populations already exposed to the covid pandemic more vulnerable due to air pollution and other forms of environmental degradation. The essay concludes that if forest conservation, coastal and marine regulation, infrastructure expansions and land use changes are to be measured against these metrics, we could expect different forms of impact assessments and regulatory decisions.

Covid-19 and Vulnerable Groups

This essay attempts to understand the intersection of caste and poverty keeping the pandemic-induced stigmatization in mind. The analysis is based on the study conducted among the population of De-Notified Tribes (DnT) inhabiting peri-urban areas adjoining Udaipur city and in a mofussil town called Dabok. The essay looks at the material condition prevailing in various DnT communities which made it virtually impossible for them to follow public health advice during the pandemic.

Caste and class added to the travails of Dalit and tribal women apart from the issues that they face along gender lines. Access to food and nutrition, access to essential commodities, access to basic healthcare also suffered during the pandemic. The increase in cases of child abuse and domestic violence were alarming throughout the pandemic. The essay lists out a set of measures focusing on what local self-governments can do in terms of providing basic citizens’ rights to the DnTs and other marginalized communities. Need for the government to focus on protecting livelihoods of the marginalized communities is stressed in the policy suggestions. Addressing gender gap issues, providing sexual and other healthcare services during crisis are suggested

Urban Development and Pandemic: A Time to Reset the Priorities

Administrators want their cities to be more resilient in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Such urban resilience can be achieved, this essay argues, only by making the poor and vulnerable sections of the population more resilient to unanticipated shocks. This in turn would entail a series me of measures. Providing a cleaner and more hygienic environment, adequate and safe housing, access to reliable and affordable healthcare for them should form the core of this effort. This will call for an all-out effort to regularize and upgrade slums and other illegal colonies where the economically or socially weaker sections live, or to provide them with alternative accommodation. Increasing the stock of affordable rental housing is another priority.

Availability of land is often mentioned as a constraint, but we see that many Government departments and PSUs are making plans to monetize the ​‘excess lands’ in their possession. This should stop and all excess lands should be handed over to Local Governments with a mandate to use them primarily for developing civic amenities and housing for the weaker sections. A reliable and efficient public transport system with coordination among all players — public and private- would help the cause of a cleaner environment while saving money and time for the commuters. Informal sector remains hit even now and special efforts would be needed to help those in the informal sector to get their jobs and livelihoods back. Targeted skill development and retraining, setting up of orderly and well-maintained markets, facilitating bank loans and ensuring support of civil society organizations are needed to achieve this.

Opportunities and Challenges to E‑Governance During Covid-19 and After

Covid-19 pandemic pushed the limits of India’s e‑governance infrastructure, mobile networks, and smart devices. Technology adoption has increased to a new height not only by the Centre but also by State and Local Governments, and citizens. Post-Covid, it has been a slow movement towards a contactless world. Thus, the essay argues, it is important for the Government to proactively plan for the new reality and emerge stronger from the crises by further accelerating the digital transformation of public service delivery and engagement through e – Governance. If leveraged correctly, this situation can help India attain new heights in terms of e- Governance adoption and utilization.

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