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    How lockdown unlocked the ‘fault lines’


    The Lockdown cannot persist. The Lockdown will lead to greater inequality and civil mayhem.

    Letters from London

    Ayon Mukhopadhyay, Director of Sales – UK/EU, IIFL Securities

    Mr. Mukhopadhyay heads IIFL’s Sales office in the UK and Europe. Prior to setting up IIFL’s Institutional Equities desk in London, he was with CLSA. A University of Oxford alumnus, he has over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry. Follow him on Twitter: @ayonliners

    By Ayon Mukhopadhyay
    (Twitter Handle: @ayonliners)

    The global lockdown is all but over, with most authorities executing unlocking in phases. The beaches in southern England are spilling over with sun seekers; the outdoor markets in Camden, London, are welcoming buskers and farmers once more, and traffic jams (or masses of protestors) are yet again dotting major cities globally.

    Sceptics are alarmed that the lockdown is being eased as suddenly as it was imposed! In the UK, the scientific community is still pleading 10 Downing to consider the consequences of a decision that can unleash the calamity of a second wave!

    The lockdown was enforced by governments largely ignorant about the vulnerabilities of the masses to the virus. While infections rose exponentially, the policy response was linear – mostly confusion. What started as a medical and health emergency was initially tackled with a ‘Hail Mary’ approach, to stop societal life completely. Then, rather than unilateral focus on core health solutions (testing, PPE, contract tracing), central banks decided to print their way out. To cure a health malaise, regimes provided an economic stimulus. As deaths mounted and unemployment soured, more fiscal and monetary policies flowed to prepare better for a post-Corona realm, even as the Covid-hit world rapidly began to crumble. It soon became apparent that though the virus does not discriminate between the elite and non-elite, the lockdown does.

    And, the economic hardship is shattering for the non-bourgeoisie. Smaller businesses/the self-employed have helplessly watched decades of entrepreneurship being blown away, within weeks. Millions of aspirational youth have been left unemployed, with thousands homeless and disillusioned.

    In the United States, this inequality exposed the biggest fault line –- race. Among the 40 million unemployed, African Americans have the highest joblessness. There is also a lopsided toll on death and infection rates of the pandemic on this community. Needless to say, the community’s long-drawn suffering, speckled with much less savings, lesser liquidity and social backwardness, has had a ruinous effect on it economically. There is no denying the underlying racial discrimination, as seen in the horrific and morbid Minnesota video that has galvanised protests across the US, even spilling over to other countries.

    But the undercurrents of such protests (and rioting, mobocracy, arson) can also be traced to the economic fallout of Covid-19. The trigger for a rebellion is sometimes only one inhuman act that breaks the resolve and motions in anarchy.

    In India, thankfully, we have not had any uprising, though here too, fault lines appear to be emerging. The unnerving image of a toddler tugging the blanket of his dead migrant mother, left at a railway station, has awakened the locked-down conscience of the country. Politics 101 of “rallying around the flag” diversion tactics have also failed this time. Trump fiddles with his China rhetoric while America burns, and Modi’s ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliance) India inspiration has not really addressed the core issues.

    In Britain too, the BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) community is disproportionately disenfranchised, with discontent rising. Similar outcries can be heard world-wide, from the proletariats in the favelas of São Paulo to those in the corrugated-zinc townships of Cape Town. Governments realise that the economic packages announced will work, only if the economies are allowed to flow, and flow fast. The Lockdown cannot persist. The Lockdown will lead to greater inequality and civil mayhem.

    And as we are unlocking, global stock markets are rejoicing. Trump, who considers the Dow value as a referendum on his ‘successful’ Presidency, merrily tweets the rescaling of 25,000. In India, too, we have just topped the 10,000 summit on the Nifty. The easing of the lockdown is bringing in a faster-than-anticipated bounceback.

    The protests, rallies and even beach visits have shown that humans value civil liberty more than social distancing. It is not a question of ‘if’, but a question of ‘when’ we will be hit by the second wave of the virus. Albeit, then there will not be another global lockdown – humanity cannot afford it. Administrations would be compelled to adopt a laissez-faire attitude, heavily dependent on the altruism of their citizens.
    (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of
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    5 Comments on this Story

    Raghavendra Kasthala40 days ago
    US people are most materialistic, greedy consumers. Yes author is right in a way some fault lines are exist almost everywhere. Cops brutality has worked has a trigger, resulting into peaceful riots, as well as massive looting, arson. Unemployment after the pandemic also part of the fault lines. We Indians as a hole are not that much materialistic, and poverty, hunger, unemployment has been been accepted as fate.
    varun goel41 days ago
    50 years of communism have totally corrupted bengali minds that they cannot stop seeing the fault lines even during pandemic and create more divisions in soceity, even after living in financial capital of the world.
    mrcharokachhap41 days ago
    Charo kachhap
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