The Fear and Gear Managers of COVID19 Pandemic
| Col Prakash Tewari (Retd), Thought Leader, CSR, Delhi - 16 May 2020

By Col Prakash Tewari (Retd)

Covid-19, the behemoth of all health bulletins has inspired people to ‘own their identities’ in a dignified and responsible way. Struck by this health monster people have redefined self preservation by resisting the urge to claw and scratch for footholds.Instead, they’ve vaulted over all personal fears, decompressed for a higher purpose and been on the go for saving others’ lives.

It’s not only been the health jinns but all of us that have faced an identity challenge, that’s prepped us to reframe and realign to the perspective of life. We are carving an alternate reality of world preservation.

It’s been months that the virus has manifested and mutated from bird to human and from human to full blown virulent human race transmission. In a very short span we’ve been hit by the unexpected on crushing speed. The world’s been unmoored with massive deaths, illness and hunger.

We’re familiar with the edgy feeling by now but in reality we’ve become seekers ‘in the now.’Seekers of the new normal! Seekers of more than the mere evolutionary purpose of making a life and marking our place on home earth for a fixed number of decades!

Life is no longer on speed dial and we are bookmarking a page for humanity, each in our own way. We are seeking spiritual solace in acts of kindness, of reaching out to others and assigning value to all entities living and breathing.

This worth that we are associating to the mortals of the community is the only renewable source of hope and power now, albeit from a six foot distance.

We matter! We all matter! People of distinguished influence, social volunteers, corporate titans, energy ninjas and established industrialists are nailing in impact like blanket stitches reinforcing extra strength to the hem of the social fabric, rebooting the universe with their efforts at solidarity.

The infectious disease experts are incandescently happy with this remarkable shift. While these medical messiahs labor for the right vaccine or develop the precise drug for Corona virus, they’re wearing the badge of trust that the society has their back.

It is an overwhelmingly inclusive emotion in their rushed hours of stress and test. It means so much to them for unlike us who have our homes as oysters during social distancing, they can’t carve any personal space for themselves.

Streaming out of safe cubbyholes into hospitals, pathological labs and deep into the direct community, they’re taking the ultimate dare to answer the call of a saviour’s duty with deep sincerity.

Even the law enforcers are acting the moral ballast and establishing the culture of caring in moil, cavil, mission execution and public direction. They are trying to be above board in ensuring continuity in critical services and essential supplies distribution. They are indeed providing the protective mantle.

Let’s take a look at the montage of life’s pictures as itappears now. The mosaic of structural, social and environmental development post hurt, abandonment, injury, bandages, broken souls and ripped lives will take time to surface.

Respect the timeline! Be an Indie and make a difference to the world like a summer butterfly bringing hope to the meadows. The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.

Blow to the Environment and Eco Systems

What comes as a definitive revelation is that human beings are not elemental to Gaia or mother earth. The human race could very well be an ornament under the blue tent. The water, grass, air, soil each have their own ‘life-beat’ that is not timed like our heart beat.

We are dependent on their sustaining wholesomeness and not vice versa. With the least crooked and twisted interruption by humans these days in the name of development and holiday camping, rivers and lands are finally breathing free and reclaiming their natural serenity.

Civilization shy animals and migratory birds are making bold appearances in their own rightful patches of jungles, since man is finally confined to four wall shelter. Hadn’t this beast of a man invaded their habitat? Nature finally has taken care of these spoils. The bombing message of conservation and ecological protection has been dropped by natural forces.

Tentative Mapping of Economic Growth

The ballpark figures by economists scream that the GDP of the world may decline from 1.9 to 7.1 percentage points. Healthcare will not only present daunting roadblocks but will give livelihood and commercial opportunities.

The vaccine to be discovered and preventive drugs would become the philosopher’s stone and make great currency, going by their obvious high end value. The spread of the virus in India has been controlled tight like the genie in a bottle, thanks to strict public behaviour regulations by authorities.

With this pandemic the face of the poor is emerging as a reality to reckon with. The marginalized, financially weaned, non identity poor living at the bottom of the pyramid have become visible. It’s not possible for them to torpedo over the knocks of this virus all by themselves.

This Gordian knot has to be untied carefully by those in power to ensure a fair economic system of more accessible lanes,where resources are available to the server and served alike.

The bridge between the poor migrants from villages and the rich Millenials soaking in city luxury has to be duly reduced with the ideal median in the struggling bourgeois mass. 

Health Campaigns for Rural Areas

Health has to be made a frontline priority in rural areas. It is mandated to take health services to remote villages. We need to commission a robust transport system to ferry supplies to remote locations where medical facilities are compromised.

The focus must be on innovations such as motorcycle/car clinics and homesteads for door to door mobilizing. Health e innovation or online health outreach clinics must have a way of getting started.

If health is a business in cities run by private engines, it should be translated as a genuine need in the rural landscape now at least. The government has to think of measures to reach the rural areas by providing medical services and installing tele medicine centres with a consistent suppy of medical experts. More government schemes like Ayushman Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojna need to be conceived and implemented.

Reverse Migration

We’ve been forced to sculpt a transformational culture of mass exodus in U Turns. The working force is retreating to the villages and interior cities as opportunities dry up in class A and B cities due to lockdown, following the widespread closure of manufacturing units, logistics terminals, power plant feeders and business/industrial establishments.

The hands on the clock of time are winding back. The migrants that have moved back will be helped through government schemes to rebuild their life at base commensurate with their work experience.

Financial Inclusion of the Rural Sector

The government needs to polarize efforts to ensure financial and digital literacy in the rural sector. Money liquidating infrastructure needs to be revamped in the true interest of the beneficiaries.

For women to withdraw the second installment of ex-gratia payment of Rs. 500 as announced by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman under the PMGKY(Pradhan MantriGaribKalyanYojna) package sufficient bank branches, ATMs and CSPs need to be opened and remain operational in the rural areas.

To deliver cash in hand we need to arrange more business correspondents or Bank Mittras. More capacity building should be primed in rural areas for financial inclusion. The Jan Dhan accounts are a landmark and with Aadhar and mobile linking people in rural areas will have better access to credit and other financial services. The ‘Dhanmantra’ enterprise rural society has become the Holy Grail with the RBI coming out with a fresh list of locations, where micro financial serving centres are likely to come up and be funded.

Role of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME)

As the population all over the world is being decimated by the virus, the MSMEs with major investment in plant and machinery are hit the most. There are 6.34 crore MSMEs and 51% are located in rural India. More than 11crore people are on their payroll while 55 % of employment happens in the urban MSMEs.

Micro enterprises run by single men or women working on their own from their homes are equally distributed over rural and urban India and small and medium ones are predominantly set in urban India.

These have been predominantly run by the lower castes and the gender ratio across them has been staggeringly distinct at an 80% male and 20% female. Most of them are not registered. Even for the government to provide direct subsidy and extra credit to them, they need to be identified first.

Most of them are informally funded from ‘other than bank’ sources so the RBI’s efforts to funnel more liquidity towards the MSMEs, has a limited impact. Once such units are identified the government can provide tax relief (GST and corporate tax), give swifter refunds and provide financial liquidity to rural India. Loans against property and such collaterals must be repaid by the government in case the MSME partially sinks. On their own at the most the MSMEs can only last for three months from now.

Stellar Life-breathing Models of Financial Inclusion

Avanti Finance by the Tata Group is an NBFC, open-access digital financial spine, flexible enough for users and partners to create, curate and deploy financial products one needs in a touchless, branchless and cashless interface with users. Thanks to this financial inclusion the vision of the organization is to reach rural population of 100million households to help them carry out activities like farming, poultry, animal husbandry, micro and mini enterprises.

At Grameen Foundation India, poor rural women are empowered with knowledge and commensurate resources, to transform their lives and the lives of their larger communities. These projects have already impacted over 1 million women (the count is increasing). The aim is to impact a billion more! Grameen foundation offers partnering GrameenMitras (local women) an entire galaxy of financial products through aecosystems, of agencies and actors that meet and elevate their everyday realities.

This is not the time to fake our existence. The core question is how are we coping with the pandemic? What strengths are we demonstrating during this crisis? What skills and experiences are we bringing to the table of resolution and contribution? We, each of us are a unique resource as unique and powerful as our fingerprints. We all are reservoirs of nourishing provisions for our fellow earth inhabitants and other life beings.

It’s not a ‘pinch me’ moment to believe! It’s not a time to get star struck because we too are heroes and local legends if only we step forward and make our contribution to lessen others’ burdens in ways that agree with us.

This is the time to change the dynamic, rephrase the conversation, raise our voice and shape our effort to create ripple effect. This is the time to look a challenge dead in the eye and give it a nodding wink, remembering that our less fortunate brethren are staring at death in the face everyday.

This is not the time to remain ‘simply born.’ This is not the time to hold back. Fear in today’s context would lead to the compression of substance within us, akin to a retrenchment of options. Whereas courage would stand out as ‘performance demonstrated.’ Viewed as a force multiplier born of the effects of a decision in action to secure, ‘restore and build’ the fabric of human interconnectedness on wheels of determination. A resolution to be alive, for nothing is more alive than awareness!

For light to break in, sweeping the dark in a shimmering blaze we’ll have to create new beliefs to honour. Let’s rise to find our ‘Ikegai’, an inspiration with a justified vocation to build back brick by brick all that we’ve lost and make better sense of this disorderly world.

The biggest strength our hands will know would be to build bridges with a sterling work ethos. Unity of life is only possible when we support those that have lost the most. Let us make them see the rose pink dawn of a new life despite their peeling layers of devastation. Meraki! There’s music to be discovered in the singing river of humanity even now.

At the end this catastrophe has served us food for thought.Are we still interested in our limiting beliefs or in what makes us limitless!? Time for unimpeachable efforts to fight this apocalypse!

Image courtesy - TV


Col Prakash Tewari (Retd) - Over 30 Years of experience in - Disaster, Conflict, Environment & Natural Resource Management ; Headed CSR activities of various Companies in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Australia; Previously - Exec. Director - CSR -DLF Ltd.; Executive VP, CSR & Education, Jindal Steel & Power; Head CSR, Tata Power; VP & Board of Global Alliance for Disaster Reduction, USA; Authored - a book on Leadership ‘Bunker to Bliss’; UNESCO - 2005 award for Professional Leadership. E Mail -

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author. It doesn’t reflect the views of the Institute, he is associated with. Also, the facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Indian Observer Post either, and Indian Observer Post does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. 


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