Lessons from the Past and Navigating the New Normal

On 30th May, 2020 at 6:00 pm IST, COVID-19 Helpline India conducted a webinar on “Lessons from the Past and Navigating the New Normal”. The event, which drew a number of viewers, was conducted on Zoom and was live streamed on Facebook as well. The aim was to help present multi-disciplinary viewpoints on what was to be expected next.

The webinar started off with a brief introduction of the initiative ‘Covid-19 Helpline India’ and the story of its inception by Co Founder Ms. Nikita gill. Next, Co Moderator for the evening, Sonal Gupta, who is a Core Team Executive at the helpline, introduced the panellists. 

First speaker for the evening was Mr. Kapil Mantri, who is the Head of Corporate strategy and Business Development at Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. He started off by discussing the three major segments of the population that are being affected due to the pandemic. Younger students are having a hard time now that their liberty to physically explore the world is being snatched away. Yet, new avenues have opened up which allow them to get access to global platforms through the comfort of their homes. Online ways of acquiring education and indulging in active learning have set a new norm to be followed by all. Another segment affected is the working class. The pandemic has proven to be fatal for a number of businesses. Layoffs and deferred salaries have added to the miseries of this segment. In this scenario, new business ideas must be explored. Going forward, Mr. Mantri believes that businesses will have to adopt measures to minimise social interaction and promote work from home depending on the type of industry one is involved in. Lastly, he talked about the older generation of our society and how we need to convince them to stay home and ensure their safety since they’re the most vulnerable. He concluded by emphasizing the inevitability of changes in the way things are done, be it in the field of education or industry. Acceptability to new ways of life needs to be encouraged. 

The next speaker was Mr. Vishal Singh Deo, who is the Director of Afkar India Foundation. Mr. Deo gave the viewers a glimpse into the impact that Covid 19 has had on the NPO sector. Since he’s been involved in undertaking Covid relief in places like Western UP, he discussed the civil concerns like migrant issues, breach of right to livelihood and right to food which are taking place in such areas. He drew common parallels from the British Famine code and stressed on lessons to be learnt from the colonial period. Unless the structure responsible for ensuring civil rights is addressed, uncertainty and hostility will continue to exist. He emphasized that more investment in the public sector and reasonable policy making needs to be carried out to ensure that money goes back in the hands of the poor through opportunities for employment and livelihood.

Our last speaker, Ms. Nabila Jamshed, who is a Public Policy Specialist with the United Nations, provided the viewers with a bird’s eye view of the impact of this pandemic. The Covid 19 pandemic, though not the only serious problem we've faced in the past few years, is still unprecedented in terms of intensity and impact. Due to Covid 19, the IMF has downgraded the global growth to 3% which is worrisome. 40% of the population does not have social protection and livelihoods have been snatched away. It has also caused interruptions to basic services such as immunization. Moving ahead, the values constructed by us as global society during these times and our response as countries will determine how we’re able to deal with challenges such as multidimensional poverty along with global pandemics such as Covid 19 in the future as well. We need to ensure enough safeguards in place for jobs and livelihood. This pandemic has made us re-evaluate the efficiency of the essential services systems in place and has provided us with a massive opportunity to take these lessons forward. We need to reinstall systems to fight other issues too and broaden the lens of accountability and sustainability. 

The addresses by the panellists were followed by an informative question and answer session. The three panellists offered the viewers a deep insight into how Covid 19 has impacted people from various walks of life, what can be learnt from the past experiences and what the future might look like. Social distancing seems like the norm which will have to be adopted as a way of lifestyle and navigation of the new normal will have to be done in a more responsible and with a more optimistic outlook.