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Growing insularity, authoritarianism during COVID-19 figure at webinar

By The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, July 4 - Social Science Research Community (SSRC), India, in collaboration with South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) organised a webinar titled �Covid-19 and South Asia: Country Experiences� on Friday, according to a press release issued here today.

Speaking at the webinar, key speaker Dr Ammar Ali Jan, scholar and historian from Pakistan who teaches at Forman Christian College, Lahore, pointed out that the gravest crisis of COVID-19 which has been exacerbated in Pakistan, is primarily due to the economic disparities in society, the authoritarian structure of the state and the incompetence of the current government. He pointed out that the Pakistani government has attacked workers, arrested students and forced doctors to go on an unprecedented hunger strike. While the situation exposes the fault lines in the country�s political economy, it also makes the task of imagining an alternative future an urgent necessity, he said.

Another key speaker, Afghan scholar Mirwais Parsa, said the people of Afghanistan are facing the catastrophic and extreme consequences of novel coronavirus due to a variety of reasons unique to Afghanistan, e.g., the ongoing conflict and its interaction with COVID-19, the return of unexpectedly high numbers of Afghan refugees from the neighbouring countries that have been the epicentres of Covid-19 almost since the outbreak of the pandemic, and the deficient healthcare capacity of the Afghanistan government. Against these backdrops, prospects of normalcy of economic and social life do not seem promising in Afghanistan, at least for the immediate future, he said.

Reflecting on the situation in Sri Lanka, another key speaker Nalini Ratnarajah, who is a leading women�s human rights defender, political activist and columnist, argued that the Sri Lankan democracy is infected by Covid-19 as the epidemic has been attempted to be handled militarily. She pointed out that the President�s task force on Covid-19, which also controls the health sector, is led by a former military commander. The struggling economy is heading towards a crisis with a recorded depreciation and the mainstream media has indulged in promoting hate against the Muslims, she pointed out.

Reflecting on the situation in Nepal, Padma Prasad Khatiwada, Associate Professor at Tribhuvan University who was another key speaker, argued that his country which has been under complete lockdown since April 30, 2020, has witnessed severe restrictions on mobility. Speaking on the social and economic challenges, Khatiwada pointed out that as the government revenues shrink and the investment is diverted to the Covid-19 response, the government has cut down the investment on social sectors and developmental works. This can push more people to poverty, hunger and malnutrition, he pointed out.

Chinese hegemonic presence in South Asia and the IMF-dictated neo-liberal policies and their adverse implications on sovereignty and democracy also figured prominently in the webinar. The insularity in the thought processes and growing authoritarian tendencies on the pretext of the COVID-19 were also focused on by the speakers.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, president of the webinar session Prof Akhil Ranjan Dutta, Head, Department of Political Science, Gauhati University and president, SSRC, India pointed out that the growing control over national economies by private and corporate forces and the dismantling of public healthcare institutions under neo-liberal orthodoxies prevented the governments across the south Asian region from addressing the challenges arising from COVID-19. Closure of borders across countries, regions and provinces as a strategy to check spread of the virus is contributing towards obsession with multiple identities � from nationalism to provincialism and beyond, he said. Prof Dutta expressed fear that freedom may be the casualty in the long run if the tendency for concentration of power under different laws related to epidemics and disaster management persists for long.

The webinar was also addressed by Prof Manoranjan Mohanty (University of Delhi) and Prof Beatriz Bissio (Federal University of Rio de Jenerio, Brazil) and was attended by Prof Bidyut Mohanty (Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi) and Dr Netra Timsina (Regional Coordinator, SAAPE, Nepal) among others, the release added.

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Growing insularity, authoritarianism during COVID-19 figure at webinar

GUWAHATI, July 4 - Social Science Research Community (SSRC), India, in collaboration with South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) organised a webinar titled �Covid-19 and South Asia: Country Experiences� on Friday, according to a press release issued here today.

Speaking at the webinar, key speaker Dr Ammar Ali Jan, scholar and historian from Pakistan who teaches at Forman Christian College, Lahore, pointed out that the gravest crisis of COVID-19 which has been exacerbated in Pakistan, is primarily due to the economic disparities in society, the authoritarian structure of the state and the incompetence of the current government. He pointed out that the Pakistani government has attacked workers, arrested students and forced doctors to go on an unprecedented hunger strike. While the situation exposes the fault lines in the country�s political economy, it also makes the task of imagining an alternative future an urgent necessity, he said.

Another key speaker, Afghan scholar Mirwais Parsa, said the people of Afghanistan are facing the catastrophic and extreme consequences of novel coronavirus due to a variety of reasons unique to Afghanistan, e.g., the ongoing conflict and its interaction with COVID-19, the return of unexpectedly high numbers of Afghan refugees from the neighbouring countries that have been the epicentres of Covid-19 almost since the outbreak of the pandemic, and the deficient healthcare capacity of the Afghanistan government. Against these backdrops, prospects of normalcy of economic and social life do not seem promising in Afghanistan, at least for the immediate future, he said.

Reflecting on the situation in Sri Lanka, another key speaker Nalini Ratnarajah, who is a leading women�s human rights defender, political activist and columnist, argued that the Sri Lankan democracy is infected by Covid-19 as the epidemic has been attempted to be handled militarily. She pointed out that the President�s task force on Covid-19, which also controls the health sector, is led by a former military commander. The struggling economy is heading towards a crisis with a recorded depreciation and the mainstream media has indulged in promoting hate against the Muslims, she pointed out.

Reflecting on the situation in Nepal, Padma Prasad Khatiwada, Associate Professor at Tribhuvan University who was another key speaker, argued that his country which has been under complete lockdown since April 30, 2020, has witnessed severe restrictions on mobility. Speaking on the social and economic challenges, Khatiwada pointed out that as the government revenues shrink and the investment is diverted to the Covid-19 response, the government has cut down the investment on social sectors and developmental works. This can push more people to poverty, hunger and malnutrition, he pointed out.

Chinese hegemonic presence in South Asia and the IMF-dictated neo-liberal policies and their adverse implications on sovereignty and democracy also figured prominently in the webinar. The insularity in the thought processes and growing authoritarian tendencies on the pretext of the COVID-19 were also focused on by the speakers.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, president of the webinar session Prof Akhil Ranjan Dutta, Head, Department of Political Science, Gauhati University and president, SSRC, India pointed out that the growing control over national economies by private and corporate forces and the dismantling of public healthcare institutions under neo-liberal orthodoxies prevented the governments across the south Asian region from addressing the challenges arising from COVID-19. Closure of borders across countries, regions and provinces as a strategy to check spread of the virus is contributing towards obsession with multiple identities � from nationalism to provincialism and beyond, he said. Prof Dutta expressed fear that freedom may be the casualty in the long run if the tendency for concentration of power under different laws related to epidemics and disaster management persists for long.

The webinar was also addressed by Prof Manoranjan Mohanty (University of Delhi) and Prof Beatriz Bissio (Federal University of Rio de Jenerio, Brazil) and was attended by Prof Bidyut Mohanty (Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi) and Dr Netra Timsina (Regional Coordinator, SAAPE, Nepal) among others, the release added.

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