Karthik Seshan

India can use its flagship public employment program (MGNREGS) to transform lives of its underprivileged population in the Covid-19 context, and live up to its promise of a welfare state.

As India continues to unravel the actual scale of economic impacts in a world infested by the dangerous Covid-19 virus, lingering images of daily wage labourers and migrant workers attempting a near impossible walk home have been etched in public consciousness. Lives and livelihoods of these labourers have been shattered and their long walks home have been met with hostility, forced quarantines, insensitive and often unscientific procedures in the name of sterilization, suspicion from their own people, and political games on their travel fares to return home.

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The "heal as one" narrative is a false one as the poorest are the most vulnerable to the disease.

 

With Covid-19 spreading its wings across the world, the impact on quality of life and access to basic human rights will be felt exceedingly more in the global south. It is the nature of disasters, to bare the inherent socio-economic inequities in societies, that are invisibilized during normal times. The Covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented public health disaster, is a case in point.

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