Covid-19 and implications thereof

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CoVID-19, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV-2) that originated from Wuhan province (China) during December 2019 has caused serious impact & irreparable loss to every section of the society in the world. Due to its rapid devastating nature, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced Covid-19 outbreak as the ‘Pandemic’ on March 11th, 2020, and issued advisories and measure to minimise the spread. The recent estimations revealed that as of now there are about 50,752,172 cases with 1,262,307 deaths and 35,801,661 recoveries at global level. In India the coronavirus cases have been estimated at 8,553,864 with 126,653 deaths while 7,917,373 people have defeated the dangerous disease. The recovery percentage of India is very significant with 92.55 per cent while it is 70.54 per cent in the world.  The pandemic has caused serious issues related to social, economic, educational, political, agricultural, psychological aspects of the lives of the people.

Impact of lockdown- an overview

The economy, both rural and urban, has been impacted adversely. The migrant workers depending on daily earnings; barely had savings which they could spend during emergency. During lockdown, most of the workers returned back to their native places because of the unavailability of jobs and money in metropolitan cities, walking thousands of miles barefoot; children, families even some pregnant women. Children being out of school for about nine months had an adverse impact on learning capacity. A record number of 122 million people lost their livelihood within few months, consisting about 75% small traders, 15% salaried people and 10.5% self-employed. Lockdown led to the loss of livelihood of millions of parents causing withdrawal of children from private schools, even private teachers suffered financial implications badly. The psychological disturbances resulted significant increase in domestic violence in some parts of the world.

Education

The COVID-19 pandemic had badly affected educational set-up worldwide, leading to the near-total closures of schools, colleges and universities. Most countries around the world had temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Classes were suspended and exams at different levels postponed. Due to continuity in lockdown, students suffered the loss of precious months for the academic year of 2020-21. Besides, the following development occurred during the lockdown:

  • Not all teachers/students were good at it or at least not all of them were ready for sudden transition from face to face learning to virtual or online mode. Most of the teachers conducted lectures on video-platforms such as Zoom, Google meet etc without any pre-designed online learning platform.
  • As many students had limited (2G) or no internet access and many students were not able to afford computer, laptop or supporting mobile cell phone, online teaching-learning created a digital divide among learners. The lockdown had hit the poor students very hard in India as most of them were unable to explore online learning according to various reports. Thus the online teaching-learning method during pandemic COVID-19 enhanced the gap between rich/poor and urban/rural.
  • During the lockdown, most of the parents were facing the unemployment situation and were not able to pay the fee for particular time periods, thereby, causing an adverse impact particularly with regard to  private- institutional -system.
  • On the other hand, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), GoI, made several arrangements, including online portals and educational channels through Direct to Home TV, Radio for students etc. Besides, students were using popular social media tools like WhatsApp, Zoom, Google meet, Telegram, YouTube live, Facebook live etc. for online teaching learning system. The digital initiatives of MHRD for secondary as well as higher education during COVID- include Diksha, e-Pathshala, Swayam etc.

Tourism

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the tourism industry due to  travel restrictions as well as slump in demand among travellers. The tourism industry had been massively affected by the spread of coronavirus, as many countries had introduced travel restrictions in an attempt to contain further spread. The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that global international tourist arrivals might decrease by 58% to 78% in 2020, leading to a potential loss of US$0.9–1.2 trillion in international tourism receipts.   India with a vast market for travel and tourism has been identified as a destination for sacred tourism both for domestic and international tourists. In recent years, the country had experienced exponential growth in travel and tourism aided by different kinds of travel. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) reported that the tourism in India generated Rs.16.91 lakh crore or 9.2% of India’s GDP in 2018, and supported 42.67 million jobs, accounting  for 8.1% of its total employment. According to the WTTC, India has ranked 3rd among 185 countries in terms of travel and tourism of total contribution to GDP in 2018.  However, because of the pandemic, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) estimates the hotel, aviation and travel sector together suffered a loss of about ₹85 billion due to travel restrictions imposed on foreign tourists. Jammu and Kashmir is a known tourist destination. Tourism in J&K is the back-bone of economy contributing significantly to the State GDP. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the tourism sector in JK.

Agriculture

India’s agriculture sector presently contributes around 15.9% of the country’s GDP and 49% of the total employment (2018-19). Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have affected most of the sectors of the economy. However, agricultural sector has performed better with 2.9% growth rate during 2019-20 as against 2.74% achieved during 2018-19. Farmers have toiled against all adversities during COVID and provided food security, ensuring continuous supply of agriculture commodities, especially staples like rice, wheat, pulses and vegetables. The farmers have been our COVID warriors and their silent efforts, coupled with timely intervention by the Central and State Governments, ensured that there was no disruption to harvesting activities. Nevertheless, the major problems faced by agricultural sector during the lockdown are highlighted as under:

  • Farmers were facing the shortage of agricultural inputs like fertilizer, pesticides and other critical inputs.  Sub-sector like fishery is hit hard by the pandemic and also caused a higher impact on livestock farming due to limited access to animal feed and a shortage of labour even affected the delivery of breeding stock of poultry.
  • Besides Agriculture, Horticulture sector in J&K suffered badly. From important cultural operations, management practices, harvest and transportation, every aspect related to back-ward and forward linkages got badly affected due to Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Shortage and non-availability of skilled labours, migration of workers to their native places triggered panic buttons. Furthermore, restrictions on the inter and intra State movement of farmers/labourers added more problems.

Initiatives by GoI to mitigate Covid-19 effects for Agricultural sector

  • Funds worth ₹ one lakh crore were given to agricultural cooperative societies, farmer-producer-organisation (FPOs) and start-ups for boosting farm gate infrastructure.
  • ₹ 10 thousand crore for formalisation of micro-food enterprises, cluster based farming approach were followed.
  • ₹  20 thousand crore for fishermen under PM Matsya Sampada Yojana; expected to pay way for additional fish production of 70 lakh tonnes over 5 years
  • ₹ 13 thousand crore drive to achieve 100% vaccination of cattle, buffalos, sheep and goats.
  • Advance release of ₹ 2000 to bank accounts of farmers as income support under PM-KISAN scheme

Some good lessons

The global disruption caused by the COVID-19 has brought some welcome and desired changes overall on the environment. Due to movement restriction and a significant slowdown of social and economic activities, air quality has improved in many cities with a reduction in water pollution in different parts of the world. As industries, transportation and companies had closed down and therefore got a sudden drop of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), oil demand has dropped 435,000 barrels globally in the first three months of 2020. Besides, global coal consumption also reduced because of less energy demand during the lockdown period. It is reported that, coal-based power generation reduced 26% in India with 19% reduction of total power generation after lockdown. Water pollution is common phenomenon of developing countries like India wherein domestic and industrial wastes are dumped into wet-lands. During the lockdown, the major industrial sources of pollution have shrunk or completely stopped, which helped to reduce the pollution load. The quarantine measures mandated that people stay at home and reduced economic activities and communication worldwide, which ultimately reduced noise level in most cities. The ecological restoration was the most common effect of lockdown.

We need to protect ourselves, our families and dearest people around us by knowing the facts, and taking appropriate measures. Social distancing, sanitation, uses of masks besides taking good-food facilitating strong immune system have been found very instrumental in this regard.

Dr. Sheikh Mehraj, Ex Dy. Director SAMETI, SKUAST-Kashmir : sheikhmehraj10@gmail.com)

Dr. Nusrat Jan, I/c Soil Testing Lab, DoA, Bandipora : drnusratjaan@gmail.com

Dr. Hilal Ahmad Malik, Asst. Prof  KVK, Bandipora, SKUAST-Kashmir: drhamalik@gmail.com )