The COVID pandemic has given birth in 2020, to the most-quoted term in these troubled times: 'Social Distancing.' Through a slew of measures like lockdown, containment and hot-spotting, authorities across the globe are ensuring people-distancing with varying degrees of success. A combination strategy of publicity, punishments and penalties is being deployed to achieve the desired results.
It appears the term, 'Social Distancing' was apparently coined in a great hurry by a group of 'experts', but with good intentions. From childhood we were taught that 'Man is a social animal.' In fact in this age of social media, it is unthinkable to distance socially. Obviously, the boon of modern-day tech is the invention of a wide range of gadgets and mediums which facilitate instant social connectivity. The hallmark of the past decade or so, has been the exponential growth of psychological intimacy, bereft of commensurate physical contact.
Perhaps the apt word could have been 'Physical Distancing.' Minds need not be distanced -- but bodies do, because the virus is looking for a physical body to serve as its vehicle of transmission. Anyway, it is never too late to mend the lexicon--probably PD may replace SD, in due course.
But deep within people's psyche, the average citizen's fears, irrespective of community, country or class stems from the uncertainty surrounding their means of livelihood. The critical anxiety factor is 'Fiscal Distancing' rather than 'Physical Distancing.' Billions of people across the world, except the few privileged ones, are extremely worried about how the lack of economic activity will create a yawning distance between their incomes & expenses, in a virus-infested world.
As the COVID-19 apocalypse unfolds with over one lakh fatalities worldwide, the purchasing power of a large segment of our country's populace will be severely eroded resulting in a real-time fiscal distancing situation.
Preventing the negative impact of the fiscal distancing phenomenon on the common man's life should, therefore, become a top priority. In India, fortunately, the Food Corporation of India's granaries are well-stocked to meet the nutrition crisis, provided there's a universal fail-safe plan for distribution of essential food items to the have-nots; whose numbers will now grow exponentially, courtesy the impending economic recession.
An abrupt drop in nutrition levels will have a cascading effect on body-immunity levels, leading to a 'COVID-friendly' situation, which can become a ticking time bomb.
The conventional Poverty Line definitions may have to be reformulated to make available cash in the hands of millions: backed by a basic safety net which must last for some months, to say the least.
Perhaps an innovative black money amnesty scheme can make possible a much-needed fiscal buffer for the government to help tide the wealth redistribution challenges. What Demonetisation could not achieve may now be attempted through a novel 'De-Covidisation Plan.'
As far as the aam aadmi is concerned, alleviation of fiscal distancing should be one of the Sustainable Development Goals: which guarantees, not just life and livelihood, but also an equitable level playing field in times to come.
Currently, A. Sushil Kumar is Co-Founder, Grochange Global, and Chief Mentor, Mansions. Earlier roles include Dean, Amrita School of Business; Global Head (M&C), Amrita TV; CEO & Mentor, Popular Vehicles.