IASbhai Editorial Hunt
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.– Confucius
EDITORIAL 55:“Protecting the poor from becoming poorer“
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL/EDITORIALS FOR UPSC CSE MAINS 2020
Krishna Rao is Associate Professor, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins University
Protecting the poor from becoming poorer
Governments need to take a long-term view of mitigating the health and economic effects of COVID-19
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Economy
India has the largest number of people under lockdown anywhere. Discuss the long term and short-term measures to be taken after lifting the lockdown. -(GS 3)
Author has beautifully scripted the pain and agony of poor marginalized rural India addressing;
- Social losses
- Economic losses
- Financial turmoil in their lives
- Prioritising public health through social distancing and population lockdowns comes at a huge economic cost.
- While there is still considerable uncertainty about how badly India will be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, there is no uncertainty that the population lockdown will force significant and widespread deprivations on people at the lower end of the income distribution.
- Within a short time after the population lockdown was imposed in India, the slowdown in economic activity has resulted in the loss of livelihood among the economically vulnerable.
- Economically vulnerable groups are being forced to sacrifice disproportionately more for the better health of society.
- To mitigate these deprivations, it is necessary for government safety net programmes to provide broad-based long-term support focused on specific vulnerable populations.
“Economically vulnerable groups are being forced to sacrifice disproportionately more for the better health of society.” Migrant workers in Delhi walk home to their villages.
SHORT- AND LONG-TERM EFFECTS
- The morbidity and mortality rates are disproportionately higher in countries, and among people, at the lower end of the income distribution.
- The Spanish flu in 1918 left about 50 to 100 million people dead worldwide.
- Poor countries like India bore the brunt of the pandemic. India lost 18 million lives, or 6% of the population, the highest anywhere.
- In contrast, the U.S., where the flu might have originated, experienced 6,75,000 deaths.
- Similar social inequities are seen in the current COVID-19 pandemic — note, for instance, the disproportionately higher mortality rates among minority groups in the U.S.
THESE INEQUITIES ARE NOT SURPRISING:
- Economically vulnerable people have poor nutrition which lowers immunity;
- They live in crowded spaces making it easier for a disease to spread;
- They have inadequate access to safe water, sanitation, and quality health care.
- Deaths and illness due to COVID-19 will directly cause economic losses.
- The death of an earning family member is a huge financial loss anywhere, but particularly so for those living on the margins of the economy.
- Those unable to work, particularly those in the informal economy, due to COVID-19-related illness will experience substantial income losses.
LONG TERM LOSSES:
- Studies on productivity losses due to other infectious diseases have reported that the poorest households lose as much as half their income.
- There is no reason why COVID-19 will not have such long-term intergenerational effects on economically vulnerable populations.
- As such, relief programmes need to have a long-time horizon.
PREGNANCY AND LOCKDOWN:
- Historically, economic downturns are associated with loss of livelihoods, decreases in dietary intake, poorer dietary quality and poorer health care consumption.
- The effect of the lockdown on pregnant women and children is particularly important.
- Studies have shown that women’s nutrition or access to health services like tetanus immunisation during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the future educational achievement of children.
- The closing of schools due to the lockdown has deprived many children of their only nutritious meal through school-feeding programmes.
- Moreover, children who experienced poor nutrition in-utero or during their early years find that their cognitive levels, educational achievement, and adult incomes are impacted.
EXTENDING SAFETY NETS
- The Central government and several State governments have announced a range of important measures to address the economic hardship faced by vulnerable households.
- They promise to provide free or subsidised food to low-wage households, and direct cash transfers to vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, farmers, rural workers, construction workers and widows.
- The effectiveness of these safety nets will depend on how well they reach the neediest groups, and efficiencies in the delivery system.
- More challenging is addressing the long-term health and economic effects of COVID-19.
- It will require extending current relief measures for a longer duration, to a few years.