ALL THINGS MUST PASS
The author of "Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World" Fareed Zakaria regards the covid-19 pandemic as a far more consequential event than 9/11 or the economic crisis that World endured. The impacts are undoubtedly visible in front of our eyes. It’s been more than two years since the coronavirus hit out at Wuhan province of China. What occurred in these two years is something the World would never have expected or prepared for. The impact it again entails is in every sector or facet of life. Who else would have thought that humanity could have endured through this before the quarter of twenty-one century? The covid-19 pandemic has affected every sector — education, corporates, tourism, transportation, hospitality, and what not, to name a few. Some countries are trying to recover while others are still struggling. Nothing can be more tragic than the death of people. Another reality that this pandemic uncovered is the gap between rich and poor. Perhaps, this problem is very apparent in South Asia and developing countries like ours. Working-class citizens, since the beginning, struggled as they walked miles to reach home from their working places. Sense of belongingness was lost. Some moved from east to west and vice versa. Meanwhile, corporate-run parties could effectively bring people to the center in an election or Jana sabha. This shows ill sidedness of our democracy where peoples are made a mere tool of representatives to use whenever latter wants but doesn’t provide anything in return.
It will be impossible to mention every effect created by covid-19 here. But, as a student, I can very well relate to how the covid-19 immensely created chaos in institutions and education. I was supposed to appear in my final undergraduate exam in May 2020, but it was postponed again and again till March 2021. This is just an example. Despite pros and cons, the online class was not practical and accessible for each student. Lower Middle class and low-income families could no longer afford online education. And this was observable in many parts of the country where the internet was not accessible, and the mobile network was not cheaper. The largest and oldest institution of higher education, Tribhuwan university, did not perform well because of poor administrative qualities. It was not easy for any student. Meanwhile, many students and institutions preferred alternative ways to continue acquiring and providing knowledge. Those who were accessible with good internet took an online class from respective institution including online course offered by elite institutions throughout the world. Another side of tragedy is that many students offered admission to national and international institutions went online for a long time. Some students haven’t seen their respective universities. University is a place where knowledge of the universe is shared through discussion, oration, and debates. In the institution, the interaction between professors and students is ideal. Online classes, to some extent, bridge the gap but are not a good alternative itself.
Another area ultimately affected by the covid-19 pandemic is local business and entrepreneurship. This business was set up by lower and middle-class families belonging to different parts of the country. When the only source of livelihood was to be closed amidst lockdown, they went through economic struggles and turmoil. Many went bankrupt while others struggled to repay the loan and pay rent. We cannot deny the fact that many businesses are shut down. Meanwhile, Nepali migrant labor in India and Middle-east endured the same pain. The choice was to either remain in the same place in uncertainty or return home without a reasonable sum. With another variant in the surge, the issue of women workers and remittance management has become challenging to predict. Internal tourism was devastated, making life difficult for those dependent on a single source. It seems Nepal’s target of bringing two million tourists a year is still far, given that this sector is moving gradually upward. Another side of the story is that this was the time when some big corporates and businesses made the evil side visible when they curtailed in most-needed products with some power elite involved. When people were in pain, it was an opportunity for them. The fact that the net wealth of many billionaires doubled during the pandemic makes clear that inequality is all-time higher throughout World. According to Oxfam, the world’s ten richest men have more than doubled their collective fortunes since March 2020.
And now, yet another strain of covid-19, omicron variant has made the situation uncertain. Despite having fewer chances of hospitalization and showing mild symptoms, though there could be an exception when symptoms could not be soft as well, the sky is not so clear as the cloud seems to be causing some obstruction. For how long can people endure is the question. Humanity throughout time has learned from each event that had an enormous impact on the planet. It won’t be easy, especially for Global South and a country like ours, to move away from this impact. Political instability and unstable government are likely to make it more severe. Unavailability of liquid assets and growth in inflation will cause short-term problems. The social and economic repercussions of the pandemic will only fade away if we learn from what we had to tolerate. It will be challenging given the circumstances of public policy and fragile bureaucracy. The government’s first task must be to vaccinate all the citizens to avoid further uncertainty. It is difficult but not impossible. Someone long ago had said, ‘every cloud has a silver lining.’
*The title of this article is inspired by the song ‘All Things Must Pass' (1970) by British songwriter and musician George Harrison, who is believed to have written after the break up of the greatest rock band of all time, The Beatles.*