Will Humans Turn Better Post-Pandemic?

Nonetheless, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never-ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts…. And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, he knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; and that perhaps it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

The End, The Plague, Albert Camus, 1947

The city of Oran. All real cities are mythical and vice versa. In a moment they can cease to exist, even while it takes decades to build them and inject them with dreams and insomnia. It can just take a war or an epidemic to eliminate the city, except in memory.

The city of Oran, a port city in the northwest Algeria on which Camus based this epical short novel on the cholera epidemic that killed most of Oran’s population in 1849 following French colonization. The novel is located in the time and space of the 1940s, with fascism looming large as a sinister but inevitable shadow over Europe.

Have you seen Warsaw’s memory in its own self-consciousness? The entire city ravaged to the ground by the fascists, 50,000 valiant Polish soldiers and civilians martyred, yet again a great betrayal by Stalin with the Red Army just across the border on the war map. And the entire Jewish quarter of 500,000 citizens, ghettoized, isolated and quarantined, then eventually transported to the death camps and gas chambers of Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust.

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Warsaw, mutiliated and brutalised, like a distorted and abstract sculpture in a black and white picture turning sepia – almost like Aleppo in modern Syria, its fate worse than that of Warsaw.

Have we learnt anything from history, really? Has human civilization, with its missiles, nuclear bombs and weapons of mass destruction, its great scientific achievements, if not savvy hi-tech super power monopolies, picked up threads and clues from the crossword puzzles of its battered history?

Two world wars, one Holocaust, new maps and mappings drawn with blood across vast terrains of unnumbered human graveyards of utter silence, as in Bosnia-Herzegovina and around its borders; thousands of massacres, including state-sponsored genocides, destruction of entire civilizations, geographies, cultures and human settlements, libraries, museums, universities, schools and art galleries in the Middle-east led by the neo-con American war machine propelled by Samuel Huntington’s dubious thesis of the ‘clash of civilizations’.

That is, the American arms and culture industry constantly looking for a new enemy, from James Bond to George Bush and Dick Cheney, even Barack Obama. This has become an art form and a con game, including in pulp fiction Hollywood, constantly looking for ‘blood for oil’ and new macabre theatres to enact its grotesque and cold-blooded orchestra through its war machine.

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Prophets and mushy bestseller ‘thinkers’, masters of kitsch and master-minds of eternal conformism, are already predicting a rosy picture, willfully choosing to ignore the bitter realism of contemporary global society in its multipolar methods of madness. Some of them will soon find themselves glorified as the 20 most powerful ‘thinkers’ on glossy covers of sanitized magazines, adorning the coffee  tables of the insulated rich and famous. One of them, among others, are predicting the usual kitsch: that now the world will become more reflective and introspective, people will read good books, listen to classical music, rethink their positions on urbanity, modernity, global warming and ecology, become less selfish, more humane, less individualistic, more collective, that they will demand peace, not war, equality not the vast disparity which is entrenched now, justice not injustice, knowledge not mediocrity. That the pandemic would teach the global civilization to be more heteregenous, less one-dimensional, dogmatic and shallow, less ultra-nationalistic and more do with humility, softer and sensuous sensibilities sans borders.

That, basically, we will all become better human beings.

I presume these prophets should just pick up a seminal book, and written not by a Marxist, prescribed in every social science course in all sensible universities: The Theory of the Leisure Class, first published in 1899. If you reinterpret its theory it will be as simple as this: So why do rich people spend such exorbitant sums of money eating food in luxury hotels? Because: it is not simply food, it is the ambience of the fancy interiors, the manifest prosperity  of a shared class position, the insatiability of desire whereby one desire can only replace another, the assertion of the status quo.

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So what would a bunch of poor, homeless, hungry people and kids, looking through the glass of this luxurious piece of grand architecture, think about it all: they will reproduce their own emaciated identities, their marginalized helplessness, their abysmal human condition, their own abject absence of humanity, and, above all, their own class position, in this “feudal-barbaric” contradiction of brazen human inequality.

It is one ambience versus another ambience, one history versus another, one country versus another country – with the glass wall as the line of actual control. Check out the contrast between those who live in high-rise buildings and those who are walking down below, migrant workers, often barefoot, with sacks on their heads, as if in a funeral procession driven by death wish.

Writes Jorge Luis Borges (Selected Non-Fictions), “In this book from 1899, Veblen discovers and defines the leisure class, whose strange obligations is the ostentatious spending of money. Thus they live in a certain neighbourhood because that neighbourhood is famous for being the most expensive. Liebermann or Picasso charge huge sums, not because they are greedy, but rather so as not to disappoint the buyers, whose intention is to demonstrate that they are able to pay for a canvas that bears the painter’s signature. According to to Veblen, the success of golf is due to the circumstances that it requires a great deal of land…”

So, will human civilization become better post-pandemic? There is no reason to believe in this hyper-optimism.

In contrast, due to the depression/recession, the supply and demand chain will become more  perverse and anarchic, the economic slump will lead to a rapid onslaught of the greed and profit machine, States will become more repressive and clampdowns might follow, surveillance will become the new normal, the arms industry will come back with a bang looking for new terrains to create many more Warsaws and Aleppos, the pharma and drugs industry will tighten and expand its jaws with new regulations, trafficking would increase, including sex trafficking and slave trafficking, refugees and boat people will cross unmanned boundaries on turbulent oceans and the sea, and the ‘reconstruction industry’ so parasitic and intrinsic to the war industry, will once again flourish in the conflict zones.

In two sentences, the world will become starkly more short, nasty and brutish, more and more Hobbesian, and it will simply come back to do what it has been doing all this while. The pandemic will be just another flash in the pan, reinforcing old, clichéd and inevitable stereotypes, in more vicious and diabolical forms.

However, the virus will remain. Inside the political and social unconscious of human society, in the expressways of forced migrations and lockdowns, in the soul of our pathetic civilizations, inside the skin of the eyes and nails, between the fingers and eyelids, buried inside ironed clothes in cupboards and trunks, and inside the pages of history. Like the last page of The Plague by Albert Camus.

Covid-19 Tally Crosses 1,200; 3 Deaths In Last 24 Hours

As many as 227 new coronavirus cases and three deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, the Centre said on Tuesday.

A total of 1,251 cases have been reported in the country so far.

“227 new cases of COVID-19 and three deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, thus, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 1,251 and the number of deaths to 32 in the country,” Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told media here.

He also said that the three deaths have been reported from Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.

“The sudden increase in the number of confirmed cases has been due to delay in informing the authorities,” Aggarwal added.

“To contain the spread of coronavirus, the ministry is working with the state governments on finding the contacts of the new cases which have been confirmed,” he further said. (ANI)

No Shortage of Medicines To Battle Covid-19: Health Dept

The Department of Pharmaceuticals, under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, is continuously monitoring the distribution and addressing issues of availability, supply and local related issues of medicines with the help of other departments, states and Union Territories (UTs).

A central control room (011-23389840) has been set up in the Department of Pharmaceuticals, which is working from 8 am to 6 pm, read a statement.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has set up another control room – helpline number 1800111255 – which functions round the clock. The control rooms deal with issues related to queries and complaints and messages dealing with COVID-19 as well as coordination of transport and other logistic services related to drugs and medical devices.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals is working in close coordination with line departments like Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, customs authorities, Central and State Drug Controllers, state governments, UTs, and various drugs and medical device associations, the statement added.

Also, it is continuously monitoring the production of medicines since the outbreak of coronavirus in China. After the lockdown, the department is facilitating the industry by addressing various issues arising from time to time as quickly as possible on top priority in consultation with various authorities including state and Union Territory governments.

“In case any issue pertaining to other Ministries/Departments comes or are brought to DoPs attention, the same is being flagged to the authorities concerned as a part of inter-departmental coordination and through empowered groups,” it said.

The NPPA has directed manufacturers to produce and maintain sufficient stocks of essential drugs at any point of time. All efforts are made to ensure the production of drugs and medical devices during the period of lockdown, the statement added.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals is using digital platforms forming WhatsApp groups/email systems and using video conferencing facilities to ensure prompt action at various levels. (ANI)

Govt Hikes Wages Under MG-NREGS Amid Pandemic Fear

In the wake of COVID-19 outbreak, Department of Rural Development, GoI in close collaboration with State Governments has taken various initiatives including revision to the Mahatma Gandhi NREGS wages with effect from April 1, 2020 with an average national increase of Rs 20.

Focus of Mahatma Gandhi NREGS may be on individual beneficiary-oriented works which directly benefit SC, ST and women headed households as well as small and marginal farmers and other poor households. However, close consultation and guidance of the State as well as district authorities would be necessary to ensure that lock down conditions are not violated and norms of social distancing are scrupulously followed.

Ministry of Rural Development is according top priority to liquidate the wage and material arrears. An amount of Rs. 4,431 crore has been released in this week to various States and Union Territories to liquidate these liabilities of current fiscal year and the remaining such liabilities along with 1st tranche for the year 2020-21 will be released before April 15, 2020.

An amount of Rs. 721 crore has been released to State Government of Andhra Pradesh. (ANI)

G-20 Pledge Support In Fight Against Coronavirus

Trade ministers from the Group of 20 (G-20) major economies have agreed to take immediate measures for facilitating trade in essential goods besides incentivising additional production of equipment and drugs to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will ensure smooth and continued operation of the logistics networks that serve as the backbone of global supply chains,” according to the ministerial statement.

“We will explore ways for logistics networks via air, sea and land freight to remain open, as well as ways to facilitate essential movement of health personnel and business people across borders, without undermining the efforts to prevent the spread of the virus,” it added.

Last week, G-20 leaders pledged to put in more than five trillion dollars into the global economy to curb job and income losses caused by border closures and lockdowns aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19.

The trade leaders said G-20 and guest countries will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep the markets open.

“We emphasise the importance of transparency in the current environment and our commitment to notify the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of any trade-related measures taken, all of which will enable global supply chains to continue to function in this crisis while expediting the recovery that will follow.”

The pandemic is a global challenge and requires a coordinated global response, the ministers said in the statement.

“We will support the availability and accessibility of essential medical supplies and pharmaceuticals at affordable prices, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed, and as quickly as possible, including by encouraging additional production through incentives and targeted investment, according to national circumstances,” said the statement.


Delhi Nizamuddin Area Cordoned After Surge In Covid-19

A Delhi Police team, including Joint CP DC Srivastava, on Monday reached the Nizamuddin area where some people have shown symptoms of coronavirus after taking part in a religious gathering at the Markaz.

Those who have shown symptoms have been shifted to different hospitals in buses for check-up.

The Police have cordoned off some areas by placing barricades and are monitoring the movement of people through drones.

Meanwhile, a World Health Organisation (WHO) team also reached the spot to supervise and monitor people.

“The health department has said that the area will be disinfected and police will provide every possible help in this process. The civil department is taking care of the situation here,” a police official told ANI.

Earlier in the day, Dr Mohd. Shoaib, Spokesperson, Nizamuddin Markaz, said that they had provided a list of people who had any health issue, including cold and fever, to the administration.

“Yesterday, we provided a list of names to the administration, who had any health issue, including cold and fever. Some of them have been admitted to the hospital on the basis of age and travel history. We don’t have any confirmed COVID-19 case till now,” he said.

Further details are awaited. (ANI)

Govt Asks Auto Firms To Manufacture Ventilators

As the country steps up efforts to combat COVID-19, automobile makers have been asked to manufacture ventilators and they are working towards it, the Health Ministry informed on Monday.

According to a tweet by the ministry, Bharat Electronics Ltd. has been asked to manufacture 30,000 ventilators in the next two months in collaboration with local manufacturers.

In a series of tweets, the ministry gave information about the government’s steps to augment the supply of ventilators, masks and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment).

“Agva Healthcare, Noida has been given an order to manufacture 10,000 #ventilators within a month. Their supplies are expected to commence in the 2nd week of April,” read another post on Twitter.

“Over 14,000 existing #ventilators earmarked for #Covid_19 patients in various hospitals in the country,” the ministry added.

Another post on the micro-blogging website informed that 3.34 lakh Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) coveralls are available with hospitals in the country and another three lakh donated coveralls are being received from abroad by April 4.

“11 domestic producers of PPE coveralls have qualified so far and orders for 21 lakh have been placed on them. They are supplying 6-7,000 pieces per day and are expected to go up to 15,000 per day by mid-April,” the Health Ministry tweeted.

“…..One more domestic manufacturer has qualified today and is being given orders for 5 lakh #PPE coveralls,” it added.

Orders for 10 lakh PPE kits have been placed through Ministry of External Affair on a Singapore-based platform and supplies are to commence soon, while orders for 20 lakh PPE coveralls have been placed on a South Korea firm which has a capacity to produce one lakh coveralls per day. Supplies are expected to commence in 10 days.

“10,000 #PPE coveralls donated by Red Cross have been received and are being distributed today,” Health Ministry tweeted.

In another tweet, the Ministry announced that two domestic manufacturers are producing 50,000 N95 masks per day. This is expected to go up to one lakh per day within next week.

“Hospitals in the country have 11.95 lakh #N95masks in stock. Additional 5 lakhs were distributed during the last two days and 1.40 lakhs are being distributed today,” read another tweet.

“DRDO will begin manufacturing 20,000 #N99 masks per day within the next week,” it added.

As on Monday, the country has 942 active cases of coronavirus, 99 recoveries and 29 deaths. (ANI)

Netanyahu In Isolation As Aide Tests Corona Positive

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several other members of his office would self-isolate after a close aide, Rivakh Paluch, tested positive for the coronavirus

A statement from the Prime Minister’s office said Netanyahu and other members of his office will self-quarantine as a precaution, CNN reported, adding that an epidemiological investigation was carried out into any possible exposure to the virus.

The statement said that the Israeli Health Ministry is in consultation with the Prime Minister’s personal doctor and would determine when the self-isolation period would end.

Israeli Health Ministry on Monday said that the number of confirmed cases in the country has reached 4,347, a rise of 100 cases since Sunday night. (ANI)