7 PM Editorial |Differential Impact Of COVID 19 and lockdown In India|22nd August 2020

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Differential Impact Of COVID 19 and lockdown In India

Introduction:

COVID 19 pandemic is seen as a leveller as it impacts everyone irrespective of race, religion, caste and class. Such catastrophic events due to pandemics, war, revolution and state collapse are argued as great levellers by economic historian Walter Schiedel. Analysis shows that inequalities in society reduce due to them.High mortality results in labour shortages which will in turn increase wages. This reduces income and wealth inequalities.

Is COVID following this prediction?

Early evidence from US and UK show that this predicted trend is not true in the short term.

  • Disease is not class neutral i.e risk of infection is more in case of poor and vulnerable
  • Economic impacts are more among low wage earners and less educated workers.

Socially marginalized groups(ethnic, caste and race minorities) have high representation in both of the above categories. They have a higher chance of mortality due to pandemic as well as losing livelihoods.

Employment trends in India:

Stringent lockdown and economic slowdown in India has impacted the livelihoods of everyone. Migrant labour exodus is the most visible representation of this phenomena.

But this impact is not caste neutral. SCs(Scheduled castes) and STs(Scheduled Tribes) are more affected than other castes. Trends of lost employment as per household surveys are:

  • 20% of SC households
  • 15% of ST households
  • 14% OBC households
  • 8% intermediate castes
  • 7% upper castes

These trends show economic inequalities may increase due to the pandemic.

Effect on access to education of SCs:

Global trends show loss of livelihoods is more in low educated and casual employment. Those with more than 12 years of education have been less affected.

Caste gaps in higher education are static or widening in India. Pandemic has the risk of exacerbating the same. COVID has led to increased home learning and use of technology due to school closures. Caste based disparities in both these trends are:

  • 51% women and 27% men in SC households are illiterate. Whereas in upper caste households it is 11% women and 24% men. Due to this assistance from parents will be less in SC households. Economic inequalities further compound this lack of assistance.
  • Access to the internet is 20% for upper caste households whereas it is 10% for SCs. This creates disparity in access to technology.
  • Bank savings are there for 62% upper caste households whereas this is 49% for SC households. Hence ability to invest in technology is lower for SC households

Due to these, prolonged closures of schools will lead to worsening of access to education for disadvantaged groups.

Conclusion:

Pandemic effects are not as caste neutral as is predicted. Further, inequalities based on social identity are widening. Investment must be made to make education and health accessible and affordable to all.

Source: The Hindu

Mains question:
  1. COVID 19 pandemic is exacerbated by inequalities whereas inequalities are exacerbated by the pandemic. Critically discuss? [15 marks, 250 words]
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