Patrika, June 17, 2021
By Pradeep S. Mehta,
Questioning the claim of linking urbanization to economic growth…If leaders fail to identify and address fundamental gaps, leaders will only have themselves to blame, not the pandemic.
History teaches us that like death, epidemics are certain. Sadly, we have stopped learning from history. Epidemics test not only our basic health infrastructure, but also our development ideals, notions of equality and poverty. We have proved to be laggy in all these areas. That is why it is easy to blame the pandemic alone for the ‘genocide’ happening, but it is not right.
In India, for years, issues like nutritious food and poverty alleviation have become mere slogans to garner votes. American epidemiologist Joseph Goldberger highlighted the importance of a nutritious diet in recovering from the pellagra epidemic in 1915. Goldberger faced extreme resistance from political leaders. Years later, he was recognised as a pioneer in this field. This incident should be treated as a lesion for our leaders.
Experts have considered urbanization appropriate instead of fighting poverty in rural India itself. Historian R.J. Evans’ 1987 book ‘Death in Hamburg’ should be noted. It is about the cholera epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 people in a German city in six weeks. Evans highlighted the link between the pandemic and the lack of clean water, fresh air and clean food for the urban poor. Therefore, our claims that urbanization is linked to economic development need to be re-looked at.
The pandemic highlighted the relationship between the lack of fresh air and clean food. Therefore, our claims that urbanization is linked to economic development need to be relooked at. The pandemic highlighted the relationship between the lack of fresh air and clean food. Therefore, our claims that urbanization is linked to economic development need to be re-examined.
Epidemics in the West have led to the construction of long-term public health projects aimed at improving sewerage, water supply and waste disposal systems. Like trickle-down economics, it is generally assumed that such measures will ultimately benefit the poor.
However, just like in economics, trickle-down health seems to be a myth, mostly to the advantage of the dominant class. In rich countries, the pandemic is disproportionately affecting blacks and poor, disparaging their claims of allround development. Those of us blindly promoting the Western model of development need to be reconsidered.
Restrictions on trade, economic activities and employment have been common measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. As is evident from the suffering of migrant workers in India, these adversely affect the poor. Unfortunately, economic adversities get little mention in epidemiological studies. A 2007 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis on the economic effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic concluded that most of the effects on the economy were ‘short-term’. Such studies disregard the long-term impact of pandemics on wide inequalities and injustices. In India too, many scholars have advocated the negligible side effect of the corona pandemic on the economy, this is not appropriate.
Author Laura Spinney in her book ‘Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World’ speaks of a similar collaboration among Indians during a 100-year-old pandemic, which later became a mass movement against mis-governance. took and contributed to freedom. Some similar cooperation has been shown by our citizens while fighting the corona epidemic. If leaders fail to recognize and address fundamental shortcomings, leaders will only have themselves to blame, not the pandemic.
Pradeep S. Mehta is secretary general of CUTS International .
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