The planet has paused, literally everything has slowed down. The time to introspect has begun... The origin, the transmission, the fallout all of it. Environmental, social, economical, public health all of it presents itself in an undeniable linkage which we till now refused to accept.
Lets take the origin of a very dangerous Zootonic Virus. This means the virus has found its way into human through animals which are infected or are carriers.
Since the virus has made its appearance recently we can only logically connect it to animals that are not domestic or in close contact with the animals like livestock, poultry etc.
Wildlife emerges as the possible source of the virus transmission. Besides being repositories of bio diversity and elements that sustain life, forests are also home to several species of wildlife forms which have inbuilt mechanisms to fight various viruses which have enabled them to survive over thousands of years.
Despite having more than adequate land for every human, the forces that govern us propagate a myth of over-population which has the invasion of forests for human needs. Forests have long been exploited for a wide range of activities like mining, timber etc.
If one takes a look at almost all wildlife sanctuaries using Google earth satellite imagery, one thing is becoming increasingly alarming. The fringes and in many cases deep inside the forests, farming and anthropogenic activities have increased.
This has in turn brought wildlife in closer contact with human settlements. Crops grown in forests attract the herbivorous wildlife into farms, tapping of the toddy tree has attracted the toddy cat, the bats to partake in the meal.
To make things worse, the Chinese built themselves an infamous reputation for consumption of anything that walked the earth. Kept in filthy conditions, and slaughtered in unhygienic places, the virus outbreak was waiting to happen.
The fallout of the virus outbreak has left the Chinese wiser and they have seemingly undertaken steps to ban the wildlife trade and consumption. This is not to certify that by going vegetarian one can be assured of a virus-free life.
But the presence of the virus in animals which have been tested raises a red flag and sends us a warning to stay away. Once a virus has manifested itself among humans, it poses a new challenge and the medical community works overtime to get a vaccine.
We may eventually get one but does that guarantee protection for all types of viruses? We need to be on our guard against the constantly mutating virus forms. Nothing detracts from the fact we humans need to quarantine ourselves from animals which can survive without our help.
Till about a month ago the only words we heard from various governments were Development, GDP, Economic Progress, etc. Today these terms are not uttered at all.
Financial pundits are silent on how economic progress will be made. Companies have asked employees to work from home. Does this mean that most of the economic activity today is just sitting behind a computer?
Let us assume for the sake of brevity that it is. Who takes the hit then from this forced shutdown? How does a daily wage labourer, a farmer, an auto rickshaw driver, a maid, work from home? Who compensates them? Doesn’t the economy need to account for them? Or are they collateral damage in this war against corona?
Coming to Mumbai with lakhs of humans cramped into a tiny city, a catastrophe awaits if the virus spreads. The city doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with any natural calamity. A visit to any of the government hospitals will leave you traumatised.
It would be a nightmare to be quarantined in Kasturba hospital or any other government hospital for that matter in Mumbai. Citizens and officials are clueless on where the cyclone and earthquake shelters are in Mumbai! The infrastructure of Mumbai when it comes to disaster response needs massive funding and commitment to fulfil.
Logically there is one purpose why God created humans. Humans are the only species which are blessed with the wisdom to conserve life on this planet. But when the fence eats the farm, mayhem results..
Let us never forget that nature is a great leveller. We tend to take our position on this planet with extreme disdain and arrogance. Time for a correction now, says the corona virus. Think rationally and behave responsibly, that’s what we need to do.