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The Social Fallout of Covid-19

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We, the Government

By HUGH  & COLLEEN GANTZER 

Our home, Mussoorie, has been very good to our family.

We want to repay that favour as professionally as we can: by keeping our fellow citizens informed of the consequences of the events happening around them. We hope that they will then exercise their authority over their Administrators and Politicians. They have Appointed and Elected those people to work on their behalf. We, the People of India are still We, the Government.

Moreover, it is both our Right and Duty to tell our Netas and Babus where they have gone wrong. If citizens had done this consistently we would not have had the disgusting practice of criminals becoming our legislators because of the cynical argument of “win ability”, or of the spawning of “political families” who loot our treasuries, or of professional toadies who want to erect idols of politicians and worship them for financial gain. We have seen at least one such temple where the ‘deity’ is a now-deceased politician with both his partners in attendance!

Having expressed ourselves on the diminishing levels of upright social conduct, we ask ourselves “How has the Pandemic affected social attitudes?” The first victim has been the growing tendency, worldwide, to resent authoritarian governments. China, the premier dictatorship, is feeling the effects and is trying to divert global attention by flexing its muscles. Dominic Cummings had to eat humble pie in the Rose Garden of 10, Downing Street for defying the Covid-19 rules. And that great global entertainer from Washington DC, who applauds himself on every stage, is beleaguered in his House because he still believes that the Colourless are superior to the Coloured!

As for us, the virus has brought home the fact that the, so-called “Migrant” workers are really our Foundational Workers. They support the entire structure of our society as many industrialists, housewives and others have realised. When we visited Cuba we learnt that Fidel Castro had also faced this problem, and solved it by building multi-storeyed apartments for such citizens. Could we include such housing developments in our future plans for monumental structures?

As for our little state, the villagers of Naai in Okhalkanda block have dug 15 pits, traditionally called thaal khaals to act as reservoirs and to prevent forest fires. In Mangaliya village of Pauri Garhwal district, villagers built a motorable road. This is how our rural folk have reacted. In marked contrast the representatives of a business community in Mussoorie have tried to extract various financial concessions from the authorities. They don’t seem to realise that it is not the civic authorities who have hit their businesses but the lack of customers. Strangely, they have not given a single suggestion to restore the flow of visitors to our town! We do, however, appreciate the fears of the local owners of hotels about converting their properties to Quarantine Centres. We would not like to live in a hotel which had recently housed people suspected of carrying Covid-19.

The bottom line is that you cannot have a bottom line unless the accountants have had access to all the information. Rightly or wrongly there seems to be a growing trust deficit between the Rulers and the Ruled. One state bigwig arrogantly proclaimed that the Ministers in his state will not be subject to the social distancing rule. This reminds us of Bihar-born author George Orwell. In his epochal Animal Farm he wrote “All animals are equal, but pigs are more equal than others” That is a very apt porcine analogy!

Our great Indian Railways claim that no trains carrying “Migrant Labour” were running late. Yet a TV crew at a station in Bihar recorded the greatly delayed arrival of such a train. When will our beloved netas realise that you can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time?
The old Maharajas, with their flashy turbans, employed bards to diffuse the truth and glorify their image. Do we really need digital bards spin doctoring the truth today? Or, perhaps, this is an essential part of the pandemic-threatened top-down, authoritarian, system!

This is the ominous writing on the wall as we see it.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards.Their credits include over 52 half-hour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)