Ending 2020 but not inequality (Opinion)

By Meerum Awan.

2020 represents the most traumatic experiences and instances for my generation. When the entire population is locked up inside their houses, the issues of those not having any houses to lock themselves in also springs forth.

The year not only marks the year of the coronavirus pandemic but also as the acknowledgement of the bigger pandemic that outshines all others -inequality.

While many wealthy countries struggled to deal with the outbreak that took millions of lives and shattered established economies, Pakistani authorities went on to boast about how Pakistan was not one of the worst-hit nations and had been significantly successful in curbing the virus outbreak in major cities. Not to mention the strictest regulations the media has seen since the 1970s.

However, the situation we saw on the ground-level was not any different from the rest of the world.

While the economically favored asked for the lockdown to be imposed with strict guidelines, some knew they would not survive in a world where they could not leave their house daily in search of employment or opportunities to do business.  

As the privileged few locked up in their houses, we saw how the destitute risked their lives just to put food on the table.

As we saw the elite hoarding commodities and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment), it was not possible to ignore those families who were all confined in single rooms sharing communal bathrooms.

Specifically in Pakistan, as education shifted to online platforms, we also outrightly ignored the voices of students from Baluchistan and FATA, complaining about not having internet facilities to attend classes online.

We all saw how the PTI government was not in the favor of a lockdown-which gave them a direct escape from any questions of inequality regarding health facilities.

In Lahore, the forever bustling streets were not a rare sight even during the pandemic. As the cases grew, the privileged few took it upon themselves to bash those not complying with social distancing guidelines and staying at home on social media.  They took it upon themselves to ensure the public that they have paid their home workers in advance to give them more provisions for the lockdown. However, no one wanted to even pass through or wander near the many slums here and there in the busiest areas of Lahore. (Recall Maria B. fiasco)

While those whose livelihoods depended on daily earnings vaguely looked around as automobiles swept past them in a rush to get back home, there were also those, stacking up designer suits for EID during a pandemic.

The inequality bared itself in the city of Lahore when women lined up outside designer outlets that barely sell anything at reasonable prices during a time that posed the biggest threat to essential key-workers and frontline employees.

Now the country is put into a second lockdown with nothing changing for the poor. The government is crying economic boosts but what do these economic successes in the large scale manufacturing industry matter to the slum mother who can’t protect her child from a disease taking millions of lives globally.

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