2020 will go down in history as the year of the pandemic, the coronavirus pandemic which laid low the entire human race. Ordinarily, every year in living memory was replete with good, bad and tragic events. But the year we will bid goodbye to on the midnight of Thursday, December 31, was undoubtedly the worst. For, it hit the global community with a killer virus which had no antidote, no preventive, no remedy. Millions upon millions were laid low by the virus.
It mattered little whether you were in the world’s richest country or the poorest, whether you were well-served by a functioning health infrastructure or had none. The virus infected all and sundry, without making any distinction of your station in life. Nearly two million lives were claimed by it while tens of millions were infected. The richest national economies were hit severely, as were the poorest. Tens of trillions of dollars worth of economic gains were drained by the pandemic.
Millions were rendered jobless due to a forced closure of businesses. Normal life in every country was thrown out of gear. Disruption became the norm while mobility itself was grounded in the nation-wide lockdown. India witnessed one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. At a short four-hour notice, the entire country was brought to a standstill, causing untold misery all around.
Millions of poor people, fearing ‘pralay’ (death), walked hungry and barefoot hundreds of miles towards their villages just so that at the time of death, there would be family and friends to perform the last rites. Several such unimaginable nightmares were what we have lived through in the time of the Wuhan virus.
Mercifully, the rate of infections is now on the decline; the economic engine is beginning to pick up momentum and a successful launch of a vaccine to defeat the virus is already in the pipeline. We may be getting our first jabs of the coronavirus vaccine, produced in Pune, Maharashtra, early in January. At least, the fear of death has vastly diminished, though the need to take all preventive steps continues as before. What the pandemic teaches us is to stay in harmony with nature, not to twiddle with it in our single-minded obsession with growth and development and its natural corollary, consumption.
That the global pandemic originated in a wet market in Wuhan, and most likely from the consumption of live bats, is now widely accepted, though the Chinese Communist Party continues to deny the obvious. China itself managed to control the spread or, better still, managed to put a tight lid over the dissemination of the news of the actual spread to the outside world. But the US, the UK and other nations became its worst victims.
Surprisingly, one European nation which had won praise for taking early steps to contain the virus is now in its severe grip, having lost a thousand lives in the last 24 hours. The truth was: the virus defied all controls. Initially, we thought Kerala had done a good job keeping it at bay. But lately, the State has reported a very high number of infections. On the other hand, Bihar, one of the poorest States, seemed to have done a good job of containing the virus.
However, the challenge to see the back of the virus is still unfinished. Once the vaccination programme is rolled out, it will be a stupendous task to keep it free from the typical Indian virus of VIPism. People with influence, connections, money etc, are certain to try and short-circuit the fair and need-based delivery system. Hopefully, the authorities can summon the requisite moral strength to resist the attempt to jump the orderly priority-linked queue. At least the pandemic should leave us with a salutary lesson about the preciousness of human dignity and equality uncorrupted by ephemeral things such as transient political influence and material wealth.