Importance of Decentralised Approach in Tackling the Pandemic


The first wave of Covid 19 highlighted the importance of a local and decentralised approach in tackling the adverse impact of the Pandemic. The government should focus on this approach to minimize the vulnerabilities for the poor and marginalized in the second wave.

  • Under the second wave of Covid 19 pandemic, the marginalised and vulnerable people are craving for the government’s support. 
  • The pandemic struck the country in 2020 and highlighted the poor condition of India’s economic system. This was followed by a series of lockdowns that brutally impacted the informal sector.
Dismal State of Indian Economy:
  • 90% of the Indian economy is composed of the informal sector that provides no social security benefits or job security. 
  • Since 1991, there has been jobless growth” in the formal sector and the new liberalisation policies showed little respect to ecological needs. 
  • A surge in the size of the informal workforce has been occurred as:
    • State policies have been formulated to serve the interests of the capitalist/industrial class. This is proven as the richest 5 percent of Indians now earn as much as the remaining 95 per cent.
    • The caste, class, and gender discrimination in society doesn’t allow social mobility.
    • Lack of governmental efforts to make agriculture a lucrative profession
    • Displacement of people due to dams, mining, express ways, etc. projects with poor or no rehabilitation
  • Very few informal workers enjoy some degree of security. These include the ones whose resource base (land, nature, tools, etc.) is intact or those who are able to access the benefits of the MGNREGA scheme. 

Despite such poor conditions, some alternate local models provided a ray of hope for poor people.

Successful Alternate Local Models during the Pandemic:
  • Dalit women of the Deccan Development Society (DDS) ensured sustained food access for numerous villages of Telangana in 2020.
  • Community health systems in Sittilingi panchayat, Tamil Nadu played a pivotal role in reducing the Covid spread.
  • In Assam, Farm2Food worked with several thousand students to continue local food growing in schools and communities.
  • Beejotsav Nagpur, the Gurgaon Organic Farmers’ Market, and others ensured that farm produce reached a local consumer base. This averted economic collapse for thousands of farmers.
Lessons from these models:
  • Local Self-reliance and Localised exchange of goods are more effective in giving livelihood security than encouraging inter-state migrations.
  • The focus should be on incentivizing local communities. While the present focus is on big industry players producing household goods like soaps, footwear, furniture, etc. 
    • This will generate additional sources of livelihood apart from agriculture and would create cheaper goods.
  • Creation of buffer opportunities is desirable to relieve the communities from undue stress in difficult times.
    • For instance, Maati (a women’s collective) has created a buffer of ecotourism for farmers and craftspersons in Uttarakhand.
Way Forward:
  • The government should reconsider its current industry-centric approach
    • For instance, reconsidering the three farm laws which may give agricultural control to corporates. It will create an even bigger pool of exploitable labour.
    • The model of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat needs reconsideration. It is actually increasing the control of distant markets and companies over people’s lives.
  • The focus must be on decentralized and localized models.
    • For instance, Kerala’s Kudumbashree programme enabled dignified livelihoods for several million women. This resulted in the rural revitalization and reduced outmigration.
  • Further, the Local self-reliance has to go along with worker control over the means of production, more direct forms of democracy (swaraj), and struggles to eliminate casteism and gender discrimination. This would imply – 
    • Better implementation of 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendment to strengthen local democracy
    • Better implementation of laws like the Forest Rights Act that provide greater ownership of forest resources to the tribals
      • In central India, some communities had legal control over surrounding forests, and mobilised towards adivasi swasashan (self-rule). They survived the COVID lockdown much better than those who did not have such control.

Adherence to the above steps will ensure economic security in one’s own village and town. This would prevent millions from going back to insecure, undignified jobs in cities and industrial zones.
Source: Indian Express

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