Tackling a social calamity is not like fighting a war which works best when a leader can use top-down power to order everyone to do what the leader wants — with no need for consultation. In contrast, what is needed for dealing with a social calamity is participatory governance and alert public discussion.Amartya Sen
The above statement holds equally true for the current circumstances facing Nepal.
In a bid to tackle the spread of Covid-19, the government of Nepal has opted for a complete lockdown of the country. It is completely understandable that decisions regarding such extreme social distancing measures are made to prevent the many fatalities that might occur from the pandemic. However, one should also comprehend that the sudden lockdown shock and its continuous extension has led to other non-contagious but equally problematic situations in the country.
We are lucky that the spread of Covid-19 has been extremely minimal in Nepal, with no critical cases and no fatality till date. But what is worth noting is that the policy response adopted for tackling the disease has actually taken more lives than the disease itself.
In addition to the Covid-19 news, our newsfeed is filled with stories of how people died due to their inability to access health services or while walking long miles home or conducted suicide or were murdered due to increased crime rate amidst lockdown. The increment of mortality rate in the future is evident with economists predicting starvation and famine to be caused by inability to earn income by our poor population. Additionally, while the entire resource of the country is allocated towards Covid-19, children are deprived of many equally essential vaccines and are at high risk of dying from those other diseases.
Moving forward from the health hazard, it is apparent that many jobs have been lost and many businesses are on the verge of closing down. This will further impoverish the poor, along with those who were already climbing the development ladder. Nepal is likely to face additional challenges in ensuring food security of its population, as distorted supply and demand is already pushing farmers towards destroying their crops.
The source of the aforementioned problem is not covid-19, but the fact that a small group of privileged people are making all the major decisions without considering its consequences in the lives of millions of people. Addressing the many problems faced by the people scattered all over the country is only possible with the help of participatory democracy. Rather than a few individuals trying to decide what is best for everybody, it is important to make decisions based on broad public discussions.
The journalists have been working hard to bring the many realities forward. They have not only brought forth the stories of many people facing extreme hardship, but also have broadcast various shows that helped bring in different perspectives to handle the pandemic whilst keeping the economy running. Nevertheless, the great measures and many ideas that are being publicly discussed are not addressed in the policies.
While at that, suggestions have also been made that it is high time for the Prime Minister to address the nation with new policies and plans regarding reopening and reviving the economy, whilst also mentioning their advances towards creating a safe environment for the Nepalese citizen. However, we don’t see it happening anytime soon.
It seems that we aren’t lucky enough, for we live in a country where our votes count but our voices do not!!!