India’s year end festivals, peaking on Diwali, have served to stimulate the economy quite a bit. This is the traditional time for spending. Along with the revival of sectors that were log-jammed during the lockdown, this has helped revive economic activity. However, Covid-19 is not letting go and every such acceleration in activity is inevitably resulting in a rise in cases. Physical distancing was, more or less, dispensed with as the people thronged the markets in every city and town. The wearing of masks, which is the second line of defence, was also only casually adhered to. The most at risk are frontline workers and those whose profession requires interface with the general public.
The availability of vaccines will still take some time. Work from home has become the norm for many. This has hit the commercial real estate business hard and it remains to be seen how it will revive. As seen in the latest round of stimulus proposed by the government, the gaps are being sought to be filled, but it will take some time for better days to return for the common person. So, despite the seeming high spirits during Diwali, tough times will continue.
As is said, however, the process of surviving such difficulties makes people and the nation stronger. What it requires is a sense of higher purpose, such as patriotic support for the nation, as pointed out by PM Modi while inaugurating the Vivekanand statue in JNU. It is this spirit that many politicians have overlooked while condemning initiatives like Demonetisation. People were willing to make the sacrifices necessary for what they believed was good for the nation. They realised in the process that it was not necessary just to be fighting on the borders to serve the nation. This is also why enough numbers are now willing to back the development plank in elections as opposed to the caste and communal arguments. They have come to recognise that the small efforts and sacrifice they are being asked to make at the individual level can result in cumulative good for society. There must be evidence on the ground in support of this to back this sentiment.
Covid-19 has also increased appreciation of what people had earlier and took for granted. They know now that those small liberties like moving around freely, catching a bus or train home, going to school and college, eating out, visiting tourist hotspots, etc., were all precious gifts of being an ordered, democratic, functioning nation. They will no longer hold these cheaply and allow them to be threatened in the future. That understanding is, indeed, a valuable gift for all of us, this Diwali.