Social Innovation is the Answer to Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy Kolkata, has put under acid test the four groups of institutional and social actors to show case their investment in Innovation and disaster preparedness.
Centuries Old Hand-Me-Down Policy of the British Raj Reigns Supreme in Independent India
COVID-19 once again proves that after 70 years of independence, we have not innovated the colonial structure of governance that was practiced by British imperial masters for over 200 years of colonial power. Instead of arming the citizens of India with trust and knowledge the Government deploys their police force to effect 'lockdown' and subjugates an entire nation with the age old tactics of fear, chaos, misinformation floating all around and of course, the favorite of the stack — 'divide and rule' — a group parroting the 'one size fits all' global line of thinking without much thought of her diverse reality and deeper humanitarian challenges of those who dare to go about making subsistence living but facing furious 'lathicharge'.
Lack of Flexibility and Creativity Plagues the Governance Mechanism
It has been a blind following like a flock of sheep (as said locally in Kolkata, Gaddalikaprabaha), an idea originated during COVID-19 first in China and then in Italy which has historical antecedents in Pandemic governance in 14th century during black death of 1347-48. Those who dared to honour their local context, capabilities and had confidence in progressive Governance that evolved over time in compliance with their cultural/constitutional practices created their own variants like Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany empowered by their own science-policy dialogue, readiness, constitutional power and implementation. Countries that interface with adaptive and effective governance empowers people and builds trust. Fear tactics dis-empowers people, destroys human capital and social capital.
Planned 'Lockdown' Cripples the Means to Combat the Inevitable Cyclone
Nature is innovating each time.
This time, when Cyclone Amphan attacked on May 20, 2020, nature took over the city streets, as countless trees, debris, poles, electric wires formed an untangled mesh and brought to a halt the functioning of the Kolkata City Municipal Corporation. Technology detecting Amphan provided early signs of it's impending fury. But, the city was under COVID-19 'lockdown'. The public service providers failed to act with necessary preparedness and immediacy. The different arms of the government failed to co-ordinate over past eight years, even after the experience of a milder version Aila which ravaged twelve years back. It also, shows deeper faults in framing of the governance system which is not conscious of their purpose in serving it's own citizens as fellow humans. If the governance system does not learn from failures and successes of it's the past, it gets in the whirlpool of same old mistakes and poor governance with mass societal sufferings.
Make COVID-19 Matter. Kick Start Innovative Intellectual Discourse
Dominant trend among the world of intellectuals is showing a tendency towards finding a refuge in the age old discourse of capitalism vs. socialism. Both Karl Marx and Schumpeter are today relevant but only partially! Each one can explain only one quarter of the story of “Change Agents”. The innovative lens of the 21st century complex social system with multiple shades of diversity in multiple major players is once more being caught up in the binary of state and subject or labour and capital. Unless ideas of people are supported to innovate and implement productive social actions and institutions, no new economic value addition will emerge.
While Marx said it is labour power which transforms the material to add value, Schumpeter put entrepreneur in the fore front who brings in technology, tools for value enhancement. Today's intellectual discourse need to rise beyond the binary of Labour and Man-made Capital. In their own social contexts of 19th and 20th century, they were trying to decipher the next Agent of Change. They were trying to account for contributions in the total cake of value addition of manmade capital and labour power. How fairness can be injected in sharing between the two?
Post COVID-19 Bargain is about Ditching the 'Zero-Sum Game' between two players
The age old debate gets a new life in the context of COVID-19 when economic packages in the name of stimulus cake are being dished out by a third party — the Government. However, the question is, how many innovative ideas will get injected and how fair the distribution is going to be. COVID-19 brings forth an unprecedented situation. Now, Governments all around are holding the full Stimulus cake in hand. Governments do not directly add value in making the cake but act as an enabler of good governance. A share may come back either through tax revenue or through support to sustain their political power. Former is transparent while latter is opaque. So, the 21st century discourse is more complex.
The third ‘change agent’ which neither Marx nor Schumpeter paid a clear attention is the Government. But today Government wants a fair share in the cake. And that, is the invisible virus that is set to plague our society, if we are not mindful of it. The virus is return/retention of political power. The bargaining process gets extremely complicated when it becomes a game of three players. The first lesson of Resource and environmental economics that each undergraduate learns and ponders;— why both market and government fails in allocating resources to drive engagement in building a new institutional arrangement that can deliver change for a larger purpose for common good in a humanistic paradigm.
Owners of big business/capital try to create channels to directly negotiate for give and take with the Government. These 'big boys' fail to come up with effective ways of problem solving, as they have 'pledged their hearts' to the Government. No matter what they do, they are assured of the larger share of stimulus cake. As a result, the citizens suffer, environment gets exploited and civilization faces extinction.
In the 21st century, it is absolutely essential to understand the Natural Laws. Once, we understand it, capital will come with ideas that will foster man-made technology and empowered human beings who are capable and wanting to add economic value. New sectors will emerge delivering services for robust soil, healthy nutrition, pollution-free air and cancer-free water.
The intellectual debate now needs to be at a higher plane to resolve more complex relation among nature , labour, capital, market, government and other institutions which shapes the societal reality. Here, financial stimulus is only a means to achieve a goal of utopia. Real progress can come through new imagination, ideas and capability of the leaders, movers and shakers of change.
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