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Saturday, February 27th, 2021

COVID-19: Has it Pressed Re-start Button

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By Maguni Charan Behera

The COVID-19 stricken world is a shamble all around us. This is not a note of pessimism, but an awareness of an optimist course of action we should plan ahead and the ideology that would underlie the course; for if winter comes can spring be far behind. The question is: Shall Spring be the same like the previous one?  Of course, it is a definite no; for everything changes.  When something looks like over a period of time, short or long under normal course, the changes happen to be slow and undifferentiated to common observation. If the change happens after a disaster, it would be calm, at least for time being; but will be markedly different subsequently from the pre-disaster situation. Needless to say, the post-COVID-19 world will not be the same pre- COVID-19 world situation. Of course, tension is likely to brew a situation of pull and push between old habits and new demands; but ultimately what comes up will be a different world system in handling previous weakness and addressing emerging demands. The efforts are on at least among the academics and other intellectuals.

The logic is simple when we say that the post –COVID-19 world will be different and in many ways. We know that wartime invention, particularly in the field of technology influences, post-war life of a county or the world by contributing to various industries. In the same line of thinking it is argued that arrangements made, weakness experienced and strength identified during the COVID-19 pandemic will influence and determine what the post-COVID world has to be. For example, the experience of online education, like google classroom, as an alternative to classroom interaction during the lockdown, would very likely influence the future educational technology in the teaching-learning process. A crisis is a harbinger of future change, a departure from the past in many areas.

It is a well-known fact that international development discourse which has shaped development perspectives of a number of countries including India suffers from several ailments.  The discourse expresses through distinct, but inter-related concepts such as market-driven capitalistic mode of production, financial globalisation, consumerist economy, etc. and has already come under scathing attack. The present crisis has given strength to rethinking for an alternative. It is not out of context to state that present form of globalisation primarily refers to the globalisation of finance along with labour and other resource mobilisation, goods and services, technology, and of the sort.  The globalisation has proved to be an utter failure on the face of COVID-19 including other pandemics and diseases, usually accomplices of globalisation, in the sense that it could not anticipate, prepare and fight against them the moment they infected the humanity.  Before effective remedies are found they do their jobs, killing human beings and diverting the resource gained from participation in the process of globalisation to fight against its inevitable accomplices of different times and forms.

 Previous to COVID-19, the model of development is held responsible for climate change, and an inverse relationship exists between environmental quality and economic progress. The advocates of this antithesis have been, as has been mentioned earlier, severe critics of the model quite for a long time. Present COVID-19 along with frequent floods, cyclones, tsunami, etc. has added immense strength to their argument. Moreover, COVID-19 has exposed the weakness of our policies, our attitude, our weakness and strength’ and is apparently all set to define communal relations which snarl ugly teeth. Perhaps God has pressed a re-start button and we are simply to follow indications for a better post-COVID-19 world.

What should be inputted in this regard? Obviously, the exposures, weakness and strength, we have made at mental and material levels would be the corner stone. This is one dimension of the entire enterprise of issues to be taken into consideration while envisioning the post-COVID-19 period in India.  Another crucial dimension is what COVID-19 has to say. In other words, what is it that we learn from the visible pattern of corona infection in general and in our country in particular?

Across the globe, coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting more than 200 countries and territories. Among these countries more than 80,000 people have been affected in the US (738,923), Italy (175,925), Spain (194,416), France (151,793), Germany (143,724), United Kingdom (114,217), China (82,735), Turkey (82, 329) and Iran (80,868) by 19 April 2020.  Only 04 .3 % of affected countries constitute 75.4 per cent of the total of 2,340,853 affected persons of the world. The number is increasing. Other countries may cross the number beyond 80,000. However, this gives a global trend.  In India worst affected states are Maharashtra (3651),  Delhi (1893), Tamil Nadu (1372), Rajasthan (1351),  Madhya Pradesh (1407),  Gujarat (1376) Telangana (l809) registering more than 1000 cases. In these 7 states (19.4 per cent of 36 States and Union Territories) affected persons of the country constitute 81.6 per cent of the total of 15,712 persons by 19 April 2020. The figures are, however, suggestive of the trend.

 The least affected states and union territories, where less than 40 cases have been registered are Arunachal Pradesh (1), Assam (35), Chandigarh, (26), Goa (7), Himachal Pradesh, (39), Jharkhand (34), Ladakh (18), Manipur (2), Meghalaya (11), Mizoram (1), Puducherry (7), Tripura (2), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (14)  which constitutes 36.1 per cent of States and Union Territories and 1.3 per cent of total affected persons.    In Northeast only 52 cases have been registered, one case of Nagaland having been transferred to Assam. In Arunachal Pradesh, only one case was registered which is a non-Arunachalee. Sikkim has not registered any case. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands all the cases belong to non-natives. In Maharashtra, the high incidence is in urban areas like Mumbai, Indore, Pune, etc. The number of cases in small States and Union Territories like Ladakh, Goa, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh though are influenced by their less size of the population, the affected person in most case are urbanites. In Meghalaya, though it is a tribal State its comparative high incidence is due to Shillong- the State capital The point is that urban centres are worst affected and it is evident when tribal states and rural dominated states are least affected. Low cases of Assam and Jharkhand are attributed to their tribal and rural nature.

The pattern shows that developed areas are worst affected in the country and across the countries of the globe. Easy targets of novel coronavirus COVID-19 are those people who have low immunity including senior citizens. The cases have been under control in states in which people have displayed a high degree of rational community sense, not, what Salman Khan tells, CovIdiots with regard to observing social distancing. The community sense in tribal areas is high. In Arunachal Pradesh, when on a suspected individual having case history of travel eluded Government machinery, the Gaon Burhas affected his quarantine in Aalo. Rational community sense, in fact, is an asset built upon the sense of responsibility towards community- fellow beings and self. It is observed that there is a positive correlation between less number of coronavirus registered cases and a high degree of social distancing, i.e. public consciousness.

In addition to social distancing, a crucial point that needs attention is immunity. People with high immunity have the chance of being less affected. That is why old persons, whose immunity is in decline, have been asked to be very cautious. When the question of immunity comes, it has a direct link with food habit, the food that is compatible with body elements.  As the body is a composition of natural elements- which Hindus believe to be Earth, Air, Fire, Ether and Water, it is but natural to argue that the body is compatible with natural diets.  In other words, the immunity is directly linked with natural diet intake and adversely with pizza culture and synthetic and inorganic food. It is not difficult to find in rural and tribal areas how much food basket consists of natural vegetables- less synthetic and more organic items. Still, people depend on rivers for fish, seasonal wild fruits and leaves, domestic cattle and poultry as compared to people of the metropolis. Arguably, the more a person is nearer to nature with regard to food items more is his/her immunity. Not surprisingly, diet basket of athletes, sportspersons, etc. includes more natural food items, not junk food or synthetic bio stimulated fruits or oxytocin hormone injected vegetables. That body is tuned with naturally available diets is well established empirically. When Andaman tribes were initiated to their non-traditional food they suffered from dysentery and other diseases. M.V.Portman has mentioned it in the context of Andaman Home which was established to civilise the natives. In the early phase of development in Arunachal Pradesh, people of remote villages also suffered from dysentery and diarrhoea when introduced to rice in place of yam, tapioca maize and millets- their staple traditional food.

Since the body is made up of natural elements, Nature maintains a regular pattern in supplying fruits and vegetables to meet the requirements body at different times. In summer, the rate of dehydration is high and the body requires more water intake. Nature provides fruits like mango, jackfruit; vegetables like watermelon which have high water content. In winter, the body lacks vitamin C resulting in cracks in the foot, lips, etc; dry skins; tongue sour and others of the sort. Citrus fruits contain vitamin C and Nature makes the provision of such fruits like orange, pineapple, tamarind and vegetables like a tomato. Citrus fruits and vegetables contain a host of vitamin C and plant compound that boosts up the immunity and help in fighting cancer, for cancer is an immune deficiency syndrome.

 The onset of monsoon is usually associated with stomach disorder leading to dysentery, diarrhoea etc. Fruits with astringent flavour are useful to treat stomach disorder. It is not a surprise that Nature provides jamun – Indian blueberry (scientific name- Syzygium cumini) at the onset of monsoon. A rural person very well knows that jamun is beneficial to abdominal diseases such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dysentery and irritable bowel syndrome. The fruit is available during June-July.

 Whatever Nature provides during a season- such as fruits, vegetables, shoots and leaves, etc. is required to replenish inadequacies naturally caused in that season. Even it makes fruits and vegetables available in advance. Though diseases and metabolic changes normally relate to changes in nature, they may occur at any time when our habit does not corroborate to Natural prescriptions of life. Nature has also taken care of such exigencies. It is no surprise to find some fruits that can be preserved to meet such exigencies. Moreover, some fruits, leaves, etc, are available almost all year-round.

 In this context, it is useful to make mention of the fruit bor thekera, mangosteen in English, (scientific name- garcinia pendunculata), tikur/tikul in Bengali/Hindi, which has multipurpose use among the Assamese. The fruit is acidic and has the quality of regulating metabolic order. It helps eliminate extremely damaging toxins accumulated over the years, destroy harmful parasites in the digestive tract and helps get rid of gas and bloating. It has another variety, garcinia mangostana, which is also used for the same purpose. People invariably use it to correct any type of stomach disorder.  This fruit is available from mid-April for a period of two months. It can be preserved and used as vegetable and medicine.

 In fact, rural and tribal people consume fruits and leafy vegetables, produced or available in a particular ecological setting as medicine and spices.  The body immunity is tuned with nature in that way. The more one is distanced from nature, more is the possibility of suffering from immune deficiency syndrome and greater is the vulnerability risk to any new disease which is inevitable in the development process. It is already recognised that inorganic food is harmful to health. Obviously,   this issue offers a challenge but holds possibilities for better health, the opportunity of conserving the Nature, rural employment and several related benefits in the post-COVID-19 India.

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