The current crisis has one again triggered a debate on what is the relationship between a citizen and a state. This debate is not philosophical. There are no intellectual complexities to it. It is simple, straight and artless. Is state just meant to control vast populations through law and order mechanism.
Is state all about police, military, and revenue. Is state a locale of power in the hands of a few. Is this a competitive territorial unit that struggles to survive through the doctrine of self-help. Is the relationship between people and power all about exacting taxes, and regulating behaviour.
All these questions have been discussed in the past, and may be in future this discussion witnesses not only an upward intensity, but a shift of emphasis. But immediately the question that stares us in the face is that what is the responsibility of a state when people face the crisis that they are facing today.
The developed nations have at least shown the world that they have the capacity, and the will, to take care of people when they are in difficult situations. Although the government in India has announced a slew of measures to meet the present crisis, but it is obvious that there is a long way to go.
The kind of economic disparities that India hosts are only staggering. Human imagination is hard to take such brutal inequalities that exist here. Covid pandemic has put light on what otherwise was already happening to millions of people in countries like India.
It is a clear indictments of the governments that have ruled these states; how people have been neglected over the decades and how poverty has been accommodated as apart in the over all structure of these economies. The role of the state was to uplift these people from the morass of poverty by ensuring a equatable distribution of resources. But a quick look at the economic distribution tells us that it has never been so.
Even this time the packages are more concerned about the overall economic atmosphere, that is highly tilted in the favour of capitalists, and high income groups.
The poor are a mere cogwheel in the grand machine. The role of the state is to ensure that poor people don’t remain poor. It is not to just feed them so that they can act as a resource for the rich segments of the society.
The economic packages must take this thing into account. There is enough money with the rich class. There are huge expenditures on government departments, and government activities that are only meant for the privileged. All that needs to be revisited now.