As we bid an eager goodbye to a pandemic-hit year that was marked by tragic deaths, major health implications, drastic changes in the way we live and work, job losses and pay cuts, and labour crisis, 2021 will be anything but a smooth ride.
- A variant of the coronavirus poses a new threat, even as more sectors reopen cautiously.
- The State allocates at least 5% of the State GDP to address health promotion and disease prevention, including strengthening surveillance and outbreak response.
- The State should employ better-trained workforce in public health, and provide clinical services by creating separate cadres and increasing the salary comparable to CGHS scales.
- Increased emphasis on research and technical reviews of ongoing programmes should guide the implementation of the public health programs.
- Instead of adhocism to seek expert advice, the State should constitute an autonomous public health committee and regulate the programmes’ implementation.
- The year 2021 will reveal just how much India has learned from the pandemic. Some of the lessons could be very positive.
- The information technology companies that are able to arrive at the right mix of work-from-home and attendance in office could develop noticeable cost advantages.
- The more difficult lessons would be in manufacturing. As workers come under pressure to step up productivity or accept lower wages, or both, much would depend on how they react.
- And if the overall socio-political climate is one that encourages violence of different kinds, it would be futile to expect the workplace to be immune from the larger emerging culture of aggressive intimidation.
- Schools have already begun to commence in a phased manner, but until the pandemic is over, one should expect short closures for sanitising every time positive cases are detected.
- Decentralised decision making at the panchayat level is the key. The inadequacy of online learning has led to some State Education Departments adopting more direct teaching-learning processes such as Vidyagama in Karnataka.
- This will be the way forward till the pandemic is under control. The key issue to tackle will be ‘loss of earlier learning’ or ‘academic regression’ – and as with anything else impact will be deeper for disadvantaged groups.
- This is an educationally sound way to move forward than attempting to finish syllabus. There is also the possibility of many children dropping out of school altogether. Schools will have to understand this and help children through it.
Law & Order
- The police should be watchful of fresh waves of the pandemic. It is inevitable that they will be involved in the entire gamut including vaccination work such as transport, storage, distribution, and manning of vaccination centres.
- The economic downturn caused by the pandemic will have its fallout in higher crime rate particularly cyber, white collar and economic crimes, and those with newer modus operandi.
- If contentious national issues like the farmers’ and doctors’ agitations gain momentum, they may have to be handled with patience.
- Urban oriented economic growth is inequitable and risky, we learnt this pandemic year. Lockdowns forced a painful retreat of rural migrants.
- But they also curtailed emissions and pollution; and pleasantly enhanced wildlife presence. But 2020 is also an unlearning watershed.
- Public expect State governments to stop treating rural migrants as cheap and needy labour source to build and service unsustainable cities like Bengaluru, and that they legislate dignified earning and living opportunities.
- Another prospect is decongesting cities through hybrid work from office and home arrangements.
- This pollution reducing effort must be alert to domestic abuse, as men spend more time at home.
Travel & Tourism
- One thing is certain; one won’t be able to travel as freely as he/she used to. Group travel itself, whether to make acquaintances or save money, will reduce as travelling with strangers will always seem suspect.
- Large-scale conferences and conventions will also go through a transformation and perhaps give rise to a different model of congregation.
- Selecting an airline will not just depend on airfare, but also hygiene, seating configuration, and preventive procedures.
- The role of travel advisors will become increasingly important as travelers will seek updated information and guidance.
- As economic activities inch closer to pre-COVID-19 levels in 2021, traffic congestion and connected externalities of tailpipe emissions are also expected to reach pre-pandemic levels.
- Adding to the problem, automobile sales are likely to spike due to perception of higher virus risk on public transport.
- On the brighter side, government initiatives and policies on promoting walking and cycling will scale up and will lead to some modal shift towards them.
- However, public transport undertakings are likely to continue their struggle in regaining ridership at least till first half of 2021, after which and based on vaccination status, commuters confidence in using public transport may return.
- To gauge livelihood status of farmers instantaneously, an innovative Farmers’ Livelihood Index may be thought of.
- A fully empowered and statutory body such as Farmers Income Commission should be established immediately.
- Withholding of formalising farm Acts and a special Parliament or Assembly sessions for threadbare discussions on all aspects of farm economy and farmers livelihood security may be best face-saving option for BJP-headed governments in the Centre and the State.