OPINION : Punjab Elections 2022 – Who will form the GOVERNMENT?

It has happened for the first time in the political history of Punjab that seven strong contending political parties (some in alliance with each other), with strong leading faces – have come down in the battleground creating an unprecedented fluid situation. All the political parties had equally impactful cards and represented themselves throughout on these lines – the ‘panthak’ and  cultural image of Akali Dal, the secular image of Congress, the Hindutva and powerful omniscient stance of BJP, re- alliance of the Dalit vote bank of BSP, the ‘Delhi development model’ agenda based AAP, stalwart leader Amarinder Singh led Punjab Lok Congress, BJP alliance Akali Dal (Democratic) led by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa,  hard liner Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Simranjit Singh Mann, the farmer centered SSM (Sanuykt Samaj Morcha) which is a new entrant with a successful farm law agitation in its kitty.

This has made Punjab Elections 2022 a high pitched poll fray where vote banks got divided or should I say morphed like never before. Here is my take on who will get the mandate to form the government:

Past Trends & New Waves

The current Punjab was formed in 1966 and ever since it has had a strong Jat Sikh culture. With the exception of Giani Zail Singh there have always been Jat Sikh Chief Ministers in the state. The Scheduled caste and OBC vote bank too which constitutes 62% Punjab population has mainly been loyal to either Congress or Akali Dal. There has also been a single generation of leadership at the top for all the political parties – be it Prakash Singh Badal or Capt. Amarinder Singh.

It has happened for the first time in Punjab elections 2022 that political parties in Punjab are scourging for credible Dalit leaders for top shot positions. It has happened for the first time that the consolidated Dalit vote bank of parties has scattered due to multiple choices they have now. And it has happened for the first time that the Punjab politics is seeing a generational shift with younger leaders being declared as Chief Ministerial candidates.

Shifts & U- turns

As much hopeful the shift to the next generation of leadership, like that of Sukhbir Badal, Bhagwant Mann, Charanjit Singh Channi might look, it has in the run created a disruptive furor. While Akali Dal and AAP went through this shift with internal oppositions and saw many senior leaders exit the party, yet there was always a strong hold that weaved and kept the party men together in a much better way than Congress could. The internal furor of Congress has been a public debacle which has badly hurt its innings in the state.

Congress made two grave mistakes which led to u-turns and change in number game impacting all parties and will impact the results of the current polling.

First, the disrespectful pushing out of senior leader Amarinder Singh – the only leader of Congress party who had pan Punjab appeal, apart from Navjot Singh Sidhu who too have had a credible report card and strength to hold the party together. Congress did not choose him either. Clearly paving way to an ugly show where everyone wanted the biggest piece of cake.

Straight away Congress lost a share of vote bank here that wanted a strong leader to lead but did not get one! Second, when Sunil Jakkar was elected by its own party MLA’s, rather democratically as the party claims; again another very credible face was not declared as the CM candidate. Since all this was in public eye, Congress again lost a percentage of secular and Hindu voters here. Had any of the above leaders were given a chance then the situation for Congress would have been different.

However, with declaring Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM candidate, Congress aimed at strongly tapping into that big chunk of 62 % Dalit vote bank and compensate for the damage. It was an applaudable historic move too. But the ground to earth and ‘gareeb ghar ka beta’ political and emotional wave got backfired right before the elections with ED conducting raid on Channi’s relative.

This made the party slide to the third position from its top position in winning the Punjab elections 2022, especially when it had an edge over an already ducked in Akali Dal which was trying its best to keep itself afloat and AAP which was not able to make enough substantial ripples all this while to give a big fight.

Akali Dal was on backfoot with sacrilege and Bargari issue and was also sinking in the ire of its loyal panthak voters since it allowed the pardoning of rape accused Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda. However, it got back into the battleground due to the disillusionment that had set in the voters by the mess of Congress. Another factor that played in their favour was the vendetta politics with Bikram Singh Majithia, which was made personal by the changed leadership of Congress in the state. The hype that the party received in the Navjot Singh Sidhu vs. Bikram Singh Majithia battle in Amritsar East brought back Akali Dal in focus once again. While all this was happening, AAP despite the allegations against it was doing relatively well in its door to door campaign.

Number Game & My Take

Although an increased voter turnout was expected this time because of the silent wave for AAP and anti incumbency factor, yet the voters were disillusioned like never before with so many options before them which were all equally stained. This disillusionment is also one of the reasons behind 5.45 % drop in polling this time.

According to my observation, analysis and general conversation with people from lower income or marginal strata to upper income strata, I predict 54 to 60 seats for AAP, 25-30 seats for Akali Dal alliance, 27 – 33 seats for Congress and 4 -5 seats for BJP alliance.

AAP is likely to get majority but it would be won on a cusp. And if by chance it is a hung assembly then Kejriwal is most likely to get into an alliance with Akali Dal even though they are ideologically different. Many would consider it impossible for AAP to take this step. But I have three interesting arguments for my reader to think about. First, AAP does not have a Dalit vote bank to tap into. Second, the rural vote bank or image they want to attain in Punjab through SSM depends on how SSM performs, which looks bleak. AAP’s effort to have any other inner alliances with Sikh hard liners will not be good for them in the long run either. Third, AAP is projecting itself as a national party across India and will prefer to go in alliance with a regional party.

On the other hand, Akali Dal is in a do or die situation and needs to come back in power in one way or the other. Even if Akali Dal risks the shift of its traditional vote bank to AAP, it will still go ahead into an alliance with them.

Albeit, in politics nothing can be carved in the stone till the judgment day or even after. Let’s see what Punjab has voted for.

OPINION: PUNJAB ELECTIONS AND ISSUES THAT NO ONE WILL TALK ABOUT

Election time in every state is the time when the populist issues take center stage – whether relevant or irrelevant. Sadly, deep social and political problems are overlooked and public fails to bring it to the table with their leaders. However, people of Punjab should not ignore it further. The key uncertainties lying ahead have been aggravated by the consequences of pandemic, climate change, demography, economics, political climate, artificial intelligence and can spiral out of control if unaddressed in the coming times.

Here is my analysis:

Agrarian Crisis and Cultural Crisis

While Green revolution might have sustained the country, it has drained Punjab. It has depleted the soil of its nutrients, increased dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The traditional crop diversification has disappeared from the state, leaving rice-wheat monoculture which is now an extremely dangerous practice for the state with rising air pollution and depleting aquifers. Post green revolution, the cropped area for pulses had reduced from 19% to 0.4% and for oilseeds from 3.9% to 0.5% from 1960-61. This needs immediate attention because these crops are important for fertility of the soil. Today, 50% of Punjab’s soil is carbon, with only 0.3% of organic carbon. Soils with less than 1% organic matter are found in desert. The farm laws that were needed with MSP to woo the farmer out of this rice-wheat monoculture have now altogether left the farmers helpless. The public and legislators need to come together with models and strategies to face this foreseeable crisis which no one wants to talk about.

The wealth that ushered in the state due to green revolution has eventually led to a cultural crisis too. Where once every farmer began his sowing season with utter respect and regard, throwing five fists full of seed up in the air in gratitude and love of god, nature and all good things; now the next generation of farmers has loud screeching music on their tractors, forgotten traditional practices and have lost the muscle for farming. The good old Punjabi culture is slowly dying.

Hollow Economy

The state of Punjab needs a solid engine working for it to survive. It is principally an agricultural economy which is on the brink of crisis. With state having water depletion issues, electricity deficit status, skilled workforce shortage – the future looks dismal until a major booster model is put in place to flesh its hollow economy. With Union government’s new policies the economy of the state will further weaken. It is importing pulses and oil seeds to maintain the demand supply difference in the domestic market, but not ready to tap into Punjab’s potential in catering the increased domestic demand of oilseeds and pulses in India by offering better incentives in form of MSP for these crops.

On the other hand, the process of de-industrialization across Punjab that took place was not stopped in its nascent stage. Not much effort had been made to retain the small or large scale industry which could have generated employment in the state. According to Annual Report of Periodic Labour Force (2017-18) Punjab has an unemployment rate of 7.8% which is higher than all India unemployment. One of the major reasons for loss of competitive industry and deep in debt economy is the cross-subsidization of farming, farm loan waivers and power subsidies. And yet, every election season is fought on which party will provide maximumn FREE power units. For how long is this viable? It is indeed a sad situation.

Misplaced Priorities

Every election season the blame ball starts to roll from one party to another. The incumbent Congress ministers in an effort to save their own faces before beginning the election campaign, have brought up the Bargari issue blaming it on the Chief Minister. The CM is so embroiled in this infighting that the state seems to be going to utter neglect. On the other hand, Akali Dal is milking the situation by blaming the shortage of electricity on the policies of Congress government in the state. Not staying behind, AAP makes tall claims of providing free electricity upto 300 units which is highly unlikely in the current scenario without overburdening the already burdened financial exchequer of the state. One should be mindful of the fact that Punjab and Delhi’s electricity situations are very different due to its pre – purchase agreements.

Everything from farm bills, farm loans, electricity shortage to Kotakpura Bargari sacrilege has become the hot election issue. However, topics like Buddha Nala, environmental costs, effluent treatment plants, sustainability of farm loans and solar panel subsidies – that really matter to the future of Punjab have still not found a voice. The politics of vote bank always takes over serious issues that all political parties willfully ignore – not understanding that if these issues aren’t looked into they are responsible for the onset of catastrophic times.

However, are politicians solely responsible for not talking about it when the public – the people – are not ready to raise these issues and seriously take measures for it?  The truth is the day people of the state put the right issues on the table with their elected leaders, all political parties will be at their service to do the right thing.

OPINION: Are the new Farm Laws solely Punjab’s Problem?

Covid-19 hinterland digest: Lockdown gives Punjab respite from drug menace  | Business Standard News
New farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem,
only the wind began from Punjab.

The new farm laws have created a major stir and have escalated the farmer protest to a historic pan India People’s Movement. The government claims that the three farm laws are an attempt to invite private players to generate healthy competition along with the mandi system (APMC), and is not a takeover by any corporate house. The centre government’s think tank has been opining vociferously in media that the socio-economic backdrop for MSP has changed with better times in the country and so the policies need a change. Punjab and Haryana has been pin pointed for being complacent to the comfort of MSP and for not reinventing its agriculture in spite of its depleting water table. A new narrative is being fabricated that it is solely Punjab’s problem.

What is Punjab’s problem?

Punjab is certainly aware of water table depletion for a long time now. When India was deficit in grain and foreign exchange to buy from foreign markets Punjab and Haryana were used for the Green Revolution and guaranteed a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice to usher the country into an era of food abundance. It is because of this that higher fertilizers and pesticides manufactured by private companies made inroads. No alternative agrarian model was provided. The constant rise in input costs have now led Punjab into an economic cul de sac. For a long time the farming community was looking for a bail out of this predicament with the help of centre, by way of MSP on other high value crops ‘in a meaningful manner’ or by subsidies that could help them diversify to food processing. But that never happened. Punjab was already trying to sustain itself and deal with the repercussions of the economic policies of Green Revolution when Modi government chose to bring in these Farm laws. Reinventing agriculture at this point in time is out of question. This raises yet another crucial question: Why did Modi government choose to bring about such drastic changes exactly now? With no new solid alternative model and no transitional phase, the Farm Laws have been bulldozed on the states and certainly Punjab is worst affected since it is a state that primarily depends on agriculture for its revenue.

But then how did one state’s agricultural issue gain pan India momentum? Clearly because the new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Here is a deeper analysis:

Liberty vs. Security

Indian farmers clearly understand that individual liberty that the centre government is promising them with the enforcement of farm laws comes by jeopardizing security of farming community. In fact, do the farmers really have the liberty of choosing which private company they want to sell their crop to? Or will the private player choose which farmers crop it wants? The fact is there is no choice but only a façade of choice. It is for this reason the farmers have been asking for the safety net of MSP as a legal provision and not because they are addicted to the ‘allure of MSP’. According to an analysis by ‘The Wire’, farmers across 11 major agricultural states have been denied Rs. 1,900 Crore due to sales below MSP in last two months alone. Moreover, if Indian agriculture is not subsidized it will never be able to compete in the international market.

Powerful tool of Crony Capitalism

The three laws serve as a dangerous tool of crony capitalism which can give rise to heavy hand and monopolistic behavior. Section 13 of The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act (2020) clearly states: “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Central Government, or any officer of the Central Government or the State Government or any other person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or of any rules or orders made thereunder.” This is simply outrageous. There is no legal recourse for Indian farmers. In fact, these farm laws together snatch away the basic constitutional rights of Indian citizens empowering the clout of government and big business houses to flourish. Certainly, the Indian farmers have understood the intentions of the current regime. Therefore, these new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem.

Crisis of Confidence

There has been a crisis of confidence in the government and its intentions. Never before did India view autonomous and independent agencies like CBI with skepticism. There was already a simmering distrust in all segments of society because of Modi government’s disastrous decision of demonetization, past rhetoric in Kashmir, CAA protests, frenzy of changing city and institution names, love jihad laws, mob lynching, extreme dip in economy – all of which has now been brought to a boil with these three Farm Laws being framed in a rush, behind the façade of a pandemic. Hence, a pan India movement where the farmers have been joined by various labour, trade and transport unions as well because the sense of fairness has been lost.

To encapsulate, these farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Only the wind began from Punjab.

OPINION: Are We a Generation of Uneducated Literates?

A generation of uneducated literates who are now in a crisis of confidence

Human education opens the mind. If humankind has ever unanimously agreed on something then it is the power of education (no wonder when White supremacist, Nazi’s or any authoritarian regime wanted to come to power they first hacked and altered the education systems!).

The scenario today is that the world in 21st century has the most educated population and hence the most comfortable lifestyles that our predecessors could never imagine. Thanks, to the technological revolution and evolution, advanced degrees, deeper understanding of psychology and biotechnology. Over the last 65 years the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years, from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015. In spite of this, we have a parallel degradation at a new level in our society. Every day brutal rape cases, sophisticated artificial intelligence attacks, ecological disruption (with fires and floods breaking out too often) clearly point in that direction.

To generalize the entire world population as uneducated literates would not be right. But the deluge of disinformation and the growing instability around the world – be it politics, economics, environment, physical and mental health, makes it imperative to address this turbulence by tracing it back to its root cause which is the human education system.  

So, where are we going wrong? How are we a generation of uneducated literates?

Education vs. Literacy

Did you know Osama Bin Laden was a qualified civil engineer? And the famous American murderer Gary Gilmore had an IQ test score of 133? Yes that is true, but the more disturbing truth is that we as a generation fail to distinguish between education and literacy. Literacy is our ability to read and write. On the other hand education encompasses thinking, rationality, wisdom, ethics, sensibility and formation of good character. A degree in any field today is nothing more than the human mental faculties being engineered to read and write in a certain way. However, education is connoted with formal education more often than not. This blurs the line between the two which should have been kept distinct. Therefore, one can graduate as an ‘evil- genius’ but not ‘illiterate-moralist’. It is because the basis for having good grades is literacy and not education in its right sense, or even in accordance with its etymological meaning. And this has precisely become one of the founding reasons for the chaos in the 21st century world, as A.R. Upadhya puts, all literates are not educated and all illiterates are not uneducated.

Educated Literate or Prejudiced Literate

A literate person without a degree today is considered ‘uneducated’ even if the individual is an ethical, cultured, sophisticated, self reliant, well read and dignified being. While, a doctor who creates a ruckus by breaking traffic rules, a public officer who doesn’t mind a little pee on the roadside, or a professor who has no sense of basic etiquettes is considered ‘educated’. Are they educated literates in any way? Majority are not educated literates but prejudiced literates. Our notion of education has reduced its scope to mere literacy and learnedness, completely doing away with the concept of ethics and morality. It is all about flashing your degrees and universities. In fact, it is worth mentioning here that the glory that an educational institute gains because of the learning or brave achievement of some of the individuals (because of their own independent efforts) is trivialized because of the commercial mandates of these institutes that distribute a slice of that glory to all the lesser ones who have enough money to enter these institutes. This prejudiced behavior is highly problematic now than ever before because the 21st century educational institutes have produced too many individuals with shallow character and views that are now equipped with advanced knowledge. This approach becomes cradle to terrorism, red tapism and many other organized crimes. We need to redefine not just the education structure but more importantly our behavior and attitude to curb it.

Disoriented Literates

One out of five sex offenders are university graduates amounting to 34.4%, and there are only 6% of them who have no academic background according to a recent survey. Who is really disoriented then – the uneducated or the educated? Education as we have come to use it now cannot be related to sanity. Never before did any generation so easily believe in conspiracy theories and was disillusioned to this extent (despite the fact that 89% of world population is literate now). Even today, a well educated refined army man or magistrate would have a mindset of having a line of daughters before a son pops out. We say women are at power with men but the number of female infanticide cases still has not reduced. What to do with such refinement and education then?

An alternate prism for why we still prefer to be uneducated literates is that it is easy to sit on a mountain than a needle, and morality is like a needle, it pricks you every time you go wrong. Hence our generation found it easier to ignore it. But where has it led us now. Behold the circus of the world then – where peaceful protests are ended with automatic gun fires in Nigeria, where American president Trump tells its citizens to drink disinfectant, when any political disagreement is considered anti national in India, when the royal house of Thailand thinks it is good time to regain authority by crushing democracy, thousands of Muslims are slaughtered in China, massive protests take over Brazil, a feminist artist is imprisoned for six years on trivial charges in Russia –  highlighting only a few.

We are certainly a generation of uneducated literates who are in a crisis of confidence now. Good luck!

OPINION: Why Farmers Opposition To The New Agricultural Reforms Is Justified

Punjab farmer unions to corner Cong govt
Farmers are unhappy with the new agriculture bills

After the CAA protests, now the centre government is facing yet another major backlash. The new farm ordinances promulgated in June this year, have not gone well with the farming community, especially of Punjab and Haryana. The reforms in the agricultural markets include deregulation of farm foods from the Essential Commodities Act (ECA). Farmers are also allowed to sell their produce to the government regulated market yards (mandis) or Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), as well as to private firms outside this set up. They have also been allowed to enter into farming contracts. The government says that these bills have rid the farmers from the shackles of middleman, increased the profit margins for them, increased their bargaining power and hence a freer trade. However, the farming community refuses to accept these as pro farmer legislations and they have strong arguments to make which should not be overlooked.

The farming community believes that with the coming of private players it will be difficult to hold them accountable for any malpractice or harassment. The eventual phasing out of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) will take away the farmers safety net and the farmers already have many issues to tackle with from depleting water levels, rising input costs for farming and debts. Least government involvement in the entire process of crop procurement will snub the small and marginal farmer decreasing their bargaining power instead of increasing it. The parallel mandi system that has been allowed to be carried out along with the entry of agribusiness firms will become redundant over a period of time – handing the baton finally to the big corporations. It is to be pointed out here that although the government claims that it is trying to help the farmers by ridding them of the monopoly of APMCs, the farming community has never been entirely against the APMCs work ecosystem in the first place. Many farmers are hugely dependent on artiya system (government licensed commission agents which gives them credibility with the farmers) for loans and smooth functioning of their daily lives. Even the banks could not provide as healthy an alternative to the farmers. Secondly and more importantly if the government could assure the provision of MSP in the legislation itself, they would not have faced such protests. The problem is not the private player but the lack of legal binding of MSP in the new bill.                                 

Here is a deeper analysis.

Small Threat v/s Big Threat

It cannot be denied that traditionally farmers have faced some problems at the hands of APMCs. However, the farmers have a collective strength as the government is answerable to them locally and nationally, which makes sure that APMCs never overreach themselves. Hence, it is a smaller threat to their progress. On the other hand, with big corporations coming in and no government involvement, the farmers will have no backup. A mutual agreement can only take place or rather hold its place if all the parties involved can exercise their strengths equally. With no strong protective measures from their democratically elected government, the farmers will definitely have a bigger threat from these corporations who have the financial power and the digital behavioral data of millions of people. Till date the American government could not completely round off Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for his mega company’s data malpractices that have impacted daily life and electoral decisions of people around the globe. How will the simple farmers ever round up private players and big corporations in case of any injustice?

One size does not fit all

Punjab and Haryana are states where the agitation against the new reforms is the most severe since they have higher contribution in filling the food security pool of India. Therefore the legislation needs to be flexible in its application. 34 % of wheat and 22% of rice is contributed to the nation by Punjab alone. The Punjab government too collects handsome mandi tax which is also outside the GST. This tax helps create and maintain robust infrastructure like roads connecting rural areas, mandi infrastructures, etc. It is used for the welfare of people and hence should not be done away with. By removing the fee on trade and excluding the mandis from the definition of trade areas the government is clearly incentivizing the traders. Earlier the traders came to a defined and well allocated area for trade with the farmers. Now a marginal farmer is expected to carry around huge quantities of produce directly to various bases of traders. This new provision is unviable for the farmers of Punjab and Haryana. This predicament is not as strongly applicable to other states as they have a weak APMC structure. In Bihar not even 1% of targeted wheat procurement happened at MSP in this past rabi season which ended in April this year. The overall contribution of the state in terms of produce is also lesser than Punjab and Haryana. Therefore, entry of a private player might be a good alternative in this state. Yet, without government back up or intervention no trader or private company will give a decent price for the hard labour of a farmer even in these states. The main point to be taken here is that one size or one approach does not fit all.

Why rush it through?

The APMC structure came to fore legally in 1956 in the face of famine in order to check unlawful trading. The system evolved to accommodate the changed circumstances of farmers over the years. Now when it has become an integral part of many state economies, where is the need to suddenly overturn it without a proper dialogue with the stakeholders? Why ram it through with these bills in the already troubling time of coronavirus pandemic? There was no need to issue an ordinance. Normally these ordinances are issued only as an emergency law. These have to be converted into legislation as soon as the parliament reconvenes. More importantly it needs to be highlighted that any law related to agriculture, agriculture processing and marketing is not even a subject of Union list. It is constitutionally a State subject.

The government is free to introduce reforms for the betterment of its people. Precisely, it is for this very reason the elected representatives have been sent to parliament by the people. But firstly, where is the emergency? To do it behind the façade of a pandemic is not the right way ethically and morally. Secondly, does it hint at something else too? Internationally, a new business climate is trying to emerge from the moribund economy due to the ongoing pandemic. There is a visible monopolistic behavior on the rise, with supersized deals taking place between various corporate giants who have strong access to capital market. The recent deals to boost Jio ecosystem is one such case in point. The accelerated digital transformation for these bigger corporations in turn primarily means enhanced “surveillance capitalism” making the governments across the globe more in sync with such deals since they can become the biggest buyers of this surveillance data, giving a more potential rise to ‘Cambridge Analytica’ like case. In times like this, when a new dangerous world wave is emerging do we really want private players to come in.

Even if it is just hysteria, why risk crushing the Anndatta by passing such ordinances in such a hush which might weaken the economy of states, and who knows…might also become entry point for a new East India company!

OPINION: A Full Circle View of Post Covid-19 World

We are too close to the details to see the bigger picture, while the large volume of prevalent information becomes merely reporatge.

The coronavirus pandemic is still unfolding but one thing is sure that there will be dramatic and strategic shifts while the world walks through the dark valley. But is this simply a new wave – an upgradation, or are we in the eye of the storm? An abyss of concentrated power which will eventually create a furore in all the areas of human existence from business world to geopolitics, social life to the virtual world – each inseparably linked to the other…

The Universe is always expanding and collapsing. And then from a collapse it re – expands. This is the process of creation and history stands witness to this fact that the world pattern similarly has always been that of ebb and flow. There are peaceful times and then there are times when the pressure of events sets in. We are too close to the details to see the bigger picture, while the large volume of prevalent information becomes merely reportage. In the face of such events, the course of history changes and coronavirus pandemic is one such event.

The trends likely to rise in the post covid-19 world are much discernable now, in the second half of 2020. It is not merely a new wave leading to the next level, where Khyber knife makes way for sophisticated weaponry. There is a new business climate trying to emerge from a moribund economy. The businesses have accelerated their digital transformation but they are far from overcoming all their problems. The onset of monopolistic behavior with supersized deals taking place, thereby concentrating bigger corporates who already have had a better access to the capital market, clearly forecast a much tougher time for smaller businesses to come out of the freeze. An accelerated digital transformation for these bigger corporations in turn primarily means enhanced “surveillance capitalism”, making the  states more in sync with such deals since it would be in their interest– giving a more potential rise to ‘Cambridge Analytica’ like cases.

The governments across the globe have already begun their shift to self sufficiency and wider digital reach amongst its citizens. Coronavirus pandemic has further led to increased use of digital tools of organic marketing, whereby the global population is also more receptive to such approach than ever before.  With state initiatives tapping social media platforms for outreach, there is now higher risk for general population to not being able to decipher the targeted content contextualized into their lives through such platforms. Now, with globalization being threatened and weak global entities leading to political compromises, there is less gainful competition and lesser choices, and higher threat to social and mental well being.

It is to be pointed out here that in this scenario a new trend is also subtly taking birth. It cannot be ignored that globalization is threatened but it is also certain that it cannot come to an abrupt halt. On the other hand nations have begun developing notable individual cultures and started their self sufficient projections but it is a long way to go before this complete self sufficiency comes into existence for all nations, if at all. But somewhere in between this wide disparity in projections and the reality, a consolidation of political and economic power has begun, making use of this fall out. A trend giving birth to oligopolies and endangering democracies.

If this becomes the eye of the storm, to point out metaphorically – the coriolis effect would further bellow the ‘epidemic of despair’. There is already much less discussion on mental health despite a spike in number of suicides in this pandemic. Unlike the business world, no model or strategy is being devised to curb this angle of the crisis. If this is left unattended it can lead to higher discontent, rage, unrest and depression leading to faulty decision making capability at individual level; and as a collective society. Even if the world comes out with a vaccine by the end of this year and there is a respite in the panic and anxiety due to covid-19, will mass vaccination be possible? Especially for the under privileged in any country – with World Health Organization’s “Solidarity Call to Action” not being supported by majority governments and pharmaceutical companies across the globe – it is long way to go.

At this time when the repercussions of the pandemic are still emerging, there can be no conclusions but only questions. There is much needed to be read in between the lines, than what the eyes can read. There will certainly be higher incidents of social and economic partiality and polarizations with a serious mental health crisis looming above.

 A safety buffer zone should be created by smaller businesses by coming together forming a pool which is not just fiscal in nature but also source of creativity and innovation to preserve their long term growth. It is not how quickly new technologies are adopted but how dedicated you are in maintaining the customer loyalty. As the world is going through the current storm, it is important to be aware and resist any autocratic surveillance empowered by artificial intelligence in the virtual world. And last but not the least, if the sense of fear arising from your current circumstances is imprisoning the mind – remember to first survive and then thrive, because future is always a notion and not reality that is created partly by circumstances and partly by faith in yourself. And faith, can move mountains as they say!