Home / Opinion / Columns /  Hope floats after a year scarred by the coronavirus
Listen to this article

Everyone wants 2022 to be a year of unprecedented expectations. I am using the word ‘unprecedented’ deliberately. If we look at the three biggest disasters of the 20th century—Spanish Flu, World Wars I and II—there was an atmosphere of desperation after each disaster. However, during the covid pandemic, the world started to prepare itself for new challenges.

As Omicron spreads, there is an opinion in scientific circles that this year the ‘pandemic’ may transform into an ‘endemic’. Antiviral covid pills might become available. At the same time, economic revival is also expected to gain momentum. With this, it will also be decided whether the world will run on the old system or whether MNCs change their approach. Manufacturing came to a standstill last year after supply chain disruptions. Many companies vowed to end their dependence on factories in China.

This is why all developing countries are trying their best to keep their population happy with their own resources. India has an ideal situation to become self-reliant. In 1757, when Robert Clive cleared the way for British rule over India, our share in global GDP was around 27%. If China is included in this, then almost half of the growth of the whole world was taking place in India and China. Is the wheel of time going to turn in the reverse?

A recent survey by Future Forum in the US has found that our offices are going to change. According to the survey, only 3% of non-white workers want to return to the office full-time, compared to 21% of their white colleagues. As much as 97% of non-white workers are looking for a model where they could do the job remotely. Experts believe that in 2022, skilled youth with flexible attitudes will get more jobs and will progress. This can increase gender, ethnic and age disparities in the workplace. Moreover, planners are advocating for well-equipped settlements within 20 minutes’ walk from work. Some sociologists are not in agreement with this. They believe it this will encourage loneliness. By the way, last year was a year of depression and suicide.

This year, we are going to see a new space race. US-based companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have already been competing for this. China has also jumped into the fray. This space race is going to add fresh tensions to the cold war between the US and China.

The cut-throat economic competition between China and the US is expected to reach the next level this year. Are we heading towards a new cold war era? If so, what will be the role of India in this? This year will give us half the answer, if not the whole, but the challenge for New Delhi is altogether different—to keep the borders safe. The Galwan clashes of 2020 might have faded in our memories, but the apprehensions triggered by them remain.

This year is going to be challenging for the Indian establishment. Farmers have returned from the borders of Delhi after assurances from the government, but they are not satisfied. Will the government be able to convince them about reforms? The peasant movement has certainly given impetus to other trade unions. India needs rapid economic reforms to keep pace with China, but reforms create discontent among a section of workers. In 1991, when Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh came up with economic reforms, there was a lot of uproar.

It is true that India has done well so far in the fight against covid. The economy is seen returning to the old growth pattern. In this year full of expectations, will we be able to achieve the expected growth rate? Will the darkness be over for the MSMEs? This is necessary to remove unemployment and recession.

This year will also be a litmus test for political parties. There are elections in five states in the next few months. Of these, Uttar Pradesh is the most important. There is a saying that the road to the power in Delhi passes through Lucknow. This is why Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completely thrown himself into the battle for UP. He is a politician with ears on the ground. He knows that if the BJP cannot get a clear majority in UP even after this, the party could face a setback in the 2024 general election. There may not be any disenchantment in the public against chief minister Yogi Adityanath, but SP’s Akhilesh Yadav is attracting huge crowds. The BSP and the Congress have so far failed to register their desired presence. Another question is that the farmers may have returned home, but has their anger completely subsided? The answer to this will decide the course of the UP election.

One thing is for sure. The year ahead is full of hope, fears and adventures. Let us welcome it wholeheartedly. Happy new year!

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.
Recommended For You
Edit Profile
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout