Is the ongoing Covid-19 crisis reshaping Indian attitudes towards social responsibility and nationhood? Considering the worldwide shortage of vaccines, it is unlikely that normalcy will return before the end of this year. Even if the present surge subsides, India will remain under threat till that time. However, when the pandemic is controlled, will Indians go back to being the kind of people they were before, or have substantial changes taken place that potentially could unleash energies and skills not seen before? Should not leaders of society be working at the present on inculcating practices that will not only help fight the pandemic but also develop a disciplined people who are more focused on working for the common good as part of personal advancement?
If there is any lesson that the pandemic has given us is that, at a certain point, everybody is in it together. Covid-19 has spared no one, in fact the less privileged and the poor have had some level of herd immunity against it, but they have suffered its severe economic fallout. Wealth and power, on the other hand, have failed to provide the protection that basic good health imparts. Wherever things have got better, it has been due to the combined efforts of all. Some sense of social responsibility has developed even among those who either believe they are above the system or marginalised by it.
Politically, too, the crisis has exposed the best and the worst in us. Democratic systems have been tested to the limits but have held out under the pressure. The political parties have realised that there is such a thing as federalism and that the states are not just recipients of largesse but have the powers to act on their own. While, for some like Mamata Banerjee, this might mean giving the Centre the finger at every opportunity, others have learned to do the best with what they have. This development will prove greatly beneficial when dealing with economic challenges in the future. An understanding should emerge that there is a limit to the pursuit of power if there is a lack of ability to utilise the many opportunities ‘normalcy’ provides. Hopefully, no longer will Indians take for granted the many advantages they have in terms of a democratic system of governance, as well as under-utilised human and other resources. The past year has been an excellent exhibition of how India has responded heroically to meet the numerous challenges that were thrown up – despite seeming differences and shortcomings. The necessary lessons need to be learned.