The National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), based in New Delhi, has recently published a report concerning the impact of COVID19 on society and expectations of a post-COVID world. The report is a compilation of survey results taken from different states in India, conducted in 9 languages both online and offline and encompasses a reasonably diverse group of respondents.
To begin with, the NCHRO report makes it amply clear that the people by and large are dissatisfied with the way the central government has handled the crises, with 77% of respondents claiming it was handled poorly. Additionally, food packages did not reach the poor (55% claimed it did not) and that government packages had a little positive impact on the lives of people (58% claiming it did not have any positive impact).
46% of people have survived the pandemic because of assistance or borrowed money from neighbours and relatives, 22% from local aid groups, and a meagre 9% from the government.
30% of people responding to NCHRO said that they ran out of food in the last month, a staggering figure. This clearly indicates how pervasive the decay in state machinery is, that the government could barely feed or care for the vast majority of its population. This is also amplified by the fact that 46% of people have survived the pandemic because of assistance or borrowed money from neighbours and relatives, 22% from local aid groups, and a meagre 9% from the government. It is starkly visible that the massive privatization project undertaken by successive governments in the past 30 years has left no social safety net or food and income security for people, and has left the most marginalized to fend for themselves.
Suppression of Dissent During Crisis
81% agreed that organized hate campaigns have increased. 82% of people get their information from social and mainstream media, and 59% from SMSs and WhatsApp, and it appears that the government is unconcerned with regulating either, which is why any average consumer can see a marked change in the content being aired.
Beyond that, it is clear that the ruling dispensation is attempting to use the crisis to subvert judicial and democratic procedures, with 77% of people agreeing that the excuse of the pandemic has been used to suppress dissent and protest. This is especially clear given the extent of financial ruin facing the country and the hate and vitriol regularly endorsed by mainstream media houses.
The NCHRO report estimates that 85% have been affected by the financial crisis, and 79% have entirely or partially had their business disrupted. With disrupted business, skyrocketing costs of medical care, and low social security, the marginalized barely have any chance of making it past this pandemic. To add to that is the increasing hate content and fake news peddled by the mainstream media, with 81% agreeing that organized hate campaigns have increased. 82% of people get their information from social and mainstream media, and 59% from SMSs and WhatsApp, and it appears that the government is unconcerned with regulating either, which is why any average consumer can see a marked change in the content being aired.
Crumbling Healthcare System
This is in lieu of focussing on problems of a crumbling healthcare system across states, with 44% claiming that states did not have adequate facilities to treat COVID patients. 71% of people said that they demanded better healthcare from the government, and most mental health concerns are related now to the health and well being of loved ones and the state has left them to fend for themselves. Additionally, 79% of people have found it difficult to get any other treatment as resources have been diverted towards addressing the pandemic. This displays the extent of decay in one of the most important public services in the country, and a massive overhaul of the system will be required once COVID has been eradicated.
Vulnerable Left to Fend for Themselves
The worst-hit have received the least support, with 75% agreeing that the migrant crisis was badly managed, 42% conceding that crimes against women have shot up, and 66% acknowledging that the elderly and disabled have been neglected. 41% of parents do not have the infrastructure to offer their children a chance at online education, another specific agenda of this regime. However, the community has come together in this time of crisis, with an increase in interpersonal communication, and 73% of people stated that they have done some form of COVID volunteering in their communities.
When we conceive a post-COVID world, it is important to recognize that a vast majority of families will emerge from the crisis gravely set back, and while the pandemic, being a first of its kind, posed many new challenges, it is imperative to take our local elected representatives to account to ensure there is equity in the new world and communities can bounce back. This involves a clear restructuring of the public health system and ensuring better wages and job security for people. A lack of the required decisive leadership required to do this is clear from the fact that 22% of people felt hopeless about the future compared to the 18% that was positive. The people will have to think of new ways to organize and demand accountability if we want to emerge from this crisis stronger.
Disclaimer: Given that the form is anonymous, one cannot estimate the number of respondents which makes it difficult to assess the size of the data group involved. The outcomes of the survey and what that can mean for an overall impression of how the people of the country have risen to the occasion.
Anushka Ganguly is a graduate student at Delhi University.