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In times of a pandemic with a majority of economies being capitalistic in nature, is it time to rethink the existing economic structure, thus affecting both socially and politically?


Ravi, a vegetable seller on the streets of Delhi panics, fears that his family of four would starve to death, well-aware that essential services are available, the real question for him is, can he afford it? In a similar case of the namesake, Ravi, an employee of an international MNC overlooks the silence in his city from his 18th-floor balcony, the real question for him is, how to spend his free time.

A global recession seems inevitable owing to the large-scale nationwide shutdowns all over the globe. The economies are experiencing serious shocks and close-downs. As Angel Gurría, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Secretary-General, says, “Even if you don’t get a worldwide recession, you’re going to get either no growth or negative growth in many of the economies of the world, including some of the larger ones, and therefore you’re going to get not only low growth this year, but also it’s going to take longer to pick up in the future.” With a majority of economies being capitalistic in nature, is it time to rethink the existing economic structure, thus affecting both socially and politically?

The announcement of a nationwide lockdown brought about massive hysteria and panic thus exaggerating the existing lockdown situation. Panic buying or buying large amounts of commodities in advance expecting a shortage or crisis in the near future. A 20% upsurge is estimated in buying domestic items and food items. It is sad that it takes a global pandemic to question the public healthcare system.

The pandemic has given some people the leverage and privilege of working from home, with hot-shot MNC jobs with several benefits. While the poor of India walk miles and miles without any public transport in the aspiration of reaching their homes, safely. Migrant workers, daily-wage earners and businesses have been severely affected with individuals left in the dark about their coming future. Shruti Gupta, daughter of a businessman says, “My dad seems pretty worried about the crisis that’s going to have its repercussions on us. Even though it’s going to affect us as much as many others, we do have our daily needs but we are not getting money out of anywhere for now.”

The stark division in class is apparent, more so, due to the pandemic. The inflation rate of necessary items like sanitiser and masks are sky-rocketing. Apparently, single Dettol hand sanitiser would easily cost over INR 160! However, it should also be pointed out that the government (both centre and state) have put a cap on the price of essential items like sanitizers and masks.

In times of crisis, surely the laws of economics remain an exception, however, it is crucial to understand and introspect the ingrained capitalism in profiting and pandering to the rich while the poor suffer, drastically. COVID-19 is a gross reminder of the dark inequality plaguing the world.

Prabhanu Kumar Das, a critique of capitalism and a politics student, says, “With the spread of coronavirus as a global pandemic, we can clearly see the difference in how capitalist and socialist countries are handling the situation, with countries such as Italy, UK, or the USA facing the brunt. The harm of capitalisation and privatisation of basic human needs such as medicine and healthcare has been shown during this pandemic. While the approaches of communist and socialist governments such as Kerala in India, or Cuba sending doctors to Italy even after Italy supported the American embargo on Cuba shows the difference between capitalist and communist/socialist nations.”

As the elite receive the first tests, the first results, get to do repeated tests, where does the remaining world go? Why such disparity in basic healthcare and a pandemic which affects everyone? Remember, the rich are tired of sitting at home, while the poor walk miles and miles without any respite!


Feature Image Credits: The Week


Anandi Sen

[email protected]

With everyone under lockdown and confined indoors, internet usage has spiked, putting a strain on the network infrastructure as it struggles to cope.

 If you are a part of the large number of people who aren’t part of the ‘essential services’ that are exempt from the lockdown that has been ordered to tackle COVID-19, chances are that you are at home, scrolling through social media, working on your computer, binging T.V. shows or using the internet in some form. You may not have thought about it, but there is only so much internet bandwidth to go around. With everyone hunkering down at home and turning towards the internet to bestow some entertainment in these trying times, do we have enough bandwidth for everyone?

First off, what bandwidth is? In a very non-technical sense, it could be compared to the ‘pipes’ of the internet. Just as a wider pipe could carry more water at a time, higher bandwidth refers to higher internet speed or data capacity. But what happens when there is a massive surge in the number of internet users and usage? While the internet in itself cannot ‘run out of bandwidth’, what can happen is an overload on the network infrastructure that ‘delivers’ to users homes. While data centres or enterprise deployments of the internet are set up to handle large volumes of data, the same does not apply for the home data pipes that can reach a bottleneck or ‘run out of capacity’.

What would happen if we ran out internet bandwidth? Well, in that case, there would be massive internet slowdowns, and congestion that could make using the internet a pain or even impossible. This is a severe problem as other than the obvious fact that we love our internet, the internet also is an essential platform to disseminate information, provide updates and even run critical services such as Government sites. We need the internet to be up and running at a time like this and a breakdown could be more than just an inconvenience. There are priorities, like news, Government sites, research, and basic communication, which are more important than you watching ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ for the fifth time.

What is being done to ensure the internet stays up and running? The European Union ordered that, steps be taken to prevent a breakdown, and Netflix, YouTube and other platforms have taken measures by reducing bandwidth usage through lowering the streaming quality on their platforms.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) wrote a letter to streaming services in India asking them to reduce their internet usage, highlighting the pressure being put on Telecom Service Providers (TSPs).

In response, Netflix has reduced its traffic by 25% through bandwidth reduction on its platform. Amazon Prime has also reduced streaming bitrates, while YouTube has reduced streaming quality. Indian streaming platforms like Hotstar, Zee5, Voot, Sony LIV, Hoichoi and ALT Balaji have also taken similar steps to preserve bandwidth usage.

With coming times, we may even see the government step in and direct internet bandwidth away from non-essential or leisure services such as streaming. While Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do have the capability to slow down individual sites and services, they are not permitted to do so due to regulations that exist under ‘net neutrality’ that prevent ISPs from slowing down certain sites to charge a premium fee to access it or slow down competing sites and forcing consumers to use one service over others. If need be, there may be temporary measures brought in. After all, these are extraordinary times. If you feel your internet has been extra sluggish lately, you now know why.

Feature Image Credits: Cartoon Movement

 Tashi Dorjay Sherpa

[email protected]