Another ‘New Normal’ | Daily News

Another ‘New Normal’

The new regulations pertaining to leave for Government Servants and the Work From Home (WFH) options and the week’s holiday given to schoolchildren — at least in some parts of the country — is an indication that the Government is compelled to seek extraordinary solutions for an extraordinary crisis.

The order to WFH is not the best solution to the problems people face in getting things done in Government offices. Ordinarily, dealing with the State bureaucracy can be a problem for most citizens.

But, at this time when there is an extraordinarily tough situation that the people have to face in purchasing essentials such as fuel and LP Gas — and sometimes basic food items — they are in any event prone to postponing problem-solving at the official level.

They would be delaying obtaining certain essential State certifications etc. that may be required, for example, to sell lands for instance. It means that such transactions would be delayed. The economy in other words is not fully functional — far from it.

This is not good news at a time when the economy should be revived with a passion. But, the people of this country have no choice because of the crisis that is being faced by them that unfortunately they did not cause.

The schoolchildren are the most hapless of all. They suffered months of stay-at-home arrangements during Covid, and it is remembered how difficult it was for quite a lot of these kids to follow their lessons online. There were difficulties accessing the Internet in remote areas, and of course, some children did not have the means to afford the equipment, even though what was essentially needed was a basic smartphone.

However, most students coped and were able to make the best use of the time they had to spend at home. But there were other repercussions they had to face as well. The home environment was not ideal for most of these children during the lockdown days. The parents were stressed as well, as they had to remain at home and some of the daily wage earner breadwinners had no means of earning any income for the upkeep of the family. This contributed to the exacerbation of tensions at home. It was not easy also for some parents to look after children seven days of the week, and 24 hours of the day.

School was normally a respite for both parents and children from the tedium of life at home, which was for parents replete with drudgery and the difficulties associated with child-minding. The school closures ensured that parents had to endure looking after their children on a long-term basis without the customary breather that is afforded when the children are at school.

Now with these current school closures happening due to a bad economic situation, they have to face this problem all over again while arguably facing a far more daunting set of circumstances in their lives. Parents have to spend time in long fuel queues and LP Gas queues and they have no option but to juggle these demands on their time while managing to earn a living.

This is a near-impossible situation. It could be asked simply how a country could recover economically when the bulk of workers and labourers have to spend most of the day and sometimes most of the night in queues?

The Government seems to have no option other than to declare holidays or to mandate WFH regulations because transport is difficult for most folk who need to commute to work. The videos of packed trains which show people clinging on perilously on the footboards of train compartments, indicate what a nightmare it is for commuters until there is a reasonable supply of fuel, and public transport is back to normal. At least one person has died so far while trying to get on to a train.

Schoolchildren in particular should not be exposed to these situations. The private bus owners are also facing difficult circumstances even though in normal times the public finds it difficult to empathize with such folk who are sometimes seen as rapacious, and as being driven solely by a profit motive.

But plying any type of commuter transport these days is a nightmare. Fuel is scarce if available at all, and is expensive. However, fare hikes are not viable at least beyond a certain upper limit, because most people would be unable to afford commuting at all if the passenger tariffs become prohibitive.

Maintaining vehicles is a nightmare as well, as the prices of tyres and imported spare parts have doubled, trebled and sometimes even quadrupled.

The people have been stoic in the face of the enormity of the current crisis and some would say that the WFH rules and the holidays declared for schoolchildren are a welcome move until the problems that the people of this country face are solved in some reasonable way in the near future.

Solutions do not come easy, but at least a regular supply of fuel may help. The people are compelled to make unusual ‘lifestyle changes’ until then, merely in order to cope. 

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