“LIFE OR LIVELIHOOD DURING COVID-19”
Dr. N. Bhagya Lakshmi
India is big on cultural and historical tourism, attracting domestic and foreign nationals through out the year. The Covid 19 pandemic is proving to be quite the lesson. No doubt safety of the individual or the society is the need of hour. The Corona man made disaster is a severe demand shock for the Indian economy. To slow the spread of virus, our country adopted the emerging these lock downs. This pandemic threatens to disrupt the global economy with fears of recission looming in many countries. The constantly evolving Covid 19 pandemic has cast a long shadow on the many lives in India irrespective of their occupation and profession. The out break of corona virus is disrupting people’s lives and interrupting business and other activities around the world.
In India many people are below poverty line and migrant labours are facing much inconvenience due to this pandemic in spite of having welfare schemes provided by the Government. The nation-wide lock down is showing more impact on livelihoods of the poor people lives. To ease the pain and misery, the Finance Minister last month announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore stimulus that included free food grains and cooking gas to poor for three months, and cash doles to women and poor senior citizens as it looked to ease the economic impact of the nationwide lockdown. We can also witness that the pandemic hit sectors from small industries to the aviation sector hard with millions of jobs at stake. Along with an unprecedented human toll, COVID-19 has triggered a deep economic crisis. The global economic impact could be broader than any that we have seen since the Great Depression. The longer a lockdown is in place, the worse the impact on our lives will get. To visualize what this means for people in lockdown areas, imagine cab drivers whose customers are not allowed to go onto the streets; professional chefs whose restaurants have been forced to close; and grounded flight attendants, their planes parked at the airports for months. People of the society are managing to stay alive but livelihoods are deep in freeze. Continues and extended lock downs will made us jobless and amounts to hunger, desolation, depression and loss of self-esteem.
Effect on Legal profession:
The nationwide lockdown has taken a huge toll on practitioners in the legal profession whose incomes depend on the functioning of courts. Appearing in a court is the basic source of income for lawyers engaged in litigation, especially those practicing in lower courts. Advocates are facing much financial crisis during lock down and they reported feeling lonely and anxious about their health and job security. The vast majority of lawyers depend on fresh filings and hearings for their income. With only urgent matters listed, lawyers are finding it tough.
Across India, the nationwide lockdown has brought to the fore the great disparity in the legal profession. Mention lawyers and the image that strikes the public is that of famous names who move around in Audis and BMWs and charge massive amounts of money. But this section is a small fraction. The vast majority of lawyers, especially in the lower courts, function on a case-to-case basis for their income. And when the courts do not function, their economic situation becomes precarious. Though the Courts are still functional, very few cases are being taken up, only on the basis of extreme urgency. There is no regular filing of matters, and no listing of hearing cases. This has left a vast majority of lawyers bereft of work, resulting in a massive struggle to make ends meet.
Not only has the going been tough for those who have recently turned independent and are trying to establish their practice primarily in lower courts, even those who have been appearing in Supreme Court for a while now are struggling. With litigation drying up, mid-level practices which also engage in transnational work are feeling the heat as well. Those who are accused and are awaiting trial have, unless their alleged crimes are heinous, been given automatic bail. Due to pandemic State can give interim bail. This is relevant because in the normal course of things, bail matters are the most important income generators for many lawyers working in sessions courts.
Lack of virtual knowledge also one of the reasons to show impact on their profession. These lawyers face such economic distress when courts go on summer vacation between May and July. In many lawyer households, the preparation for the summer vacation starts at least a month earlier, when expenses are cut to brace for the impact of the holidays. The Supreme Court Bar Association now provides an interest-free loan of Rs 25,000 to members repayable in two years. According to the opinion of the majority of the advocates “Institutional support is required. That does not mean that we’re expecting money from the Bar Council. There needs to be an adaptation to the situation in terms of providing support for hearings. Steps must be taken to make people aware of the fact that it is not outlandish anymore to conduct hearings over video conferencing. The approach should not be a top down. District Courts require this as that’s where the glut of the pendency is”. However, lawyers said the situation would improve only when the courts start functioning normally.
The magnitude of potential unemployment, business failure and financial risk a comprehensive package of fiscal and monetary interventions needed to be planned. The lockdown represents a massive logistical and implementation challenge for India given its geographical terrain, income inequality and population density. It is imperative that society should preserve both life and livelihoods of the people.
- News Paper Articles (Eenadu, Times of India, The Hindu)