Covid-19: Redrawn Borders, Redefined Lives – A Report

 On 8th July 2020, the Calcutta Research Group (CRG), in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung   and Institute of Human Sciences, Vienna, organised a webinar which sought to address the sudden visibility of India’s migrant workers and questions regarding borders, inequality, public health and care. Keeping in mind that the coronavirus pandemic has emerged not simply as a public health and economic crisis but also as one that has thrown migrant workers into deep turmoil, the webinar sought to interrogate issues of movement, sovereignty, governance, and borders between people, societies and states. Annesha Saha reports.

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Report on ‘CoVid-19 : Public Health and the Sudden Visibility of Migrant Workers’

Migrant laborers are not an anomaly in Indian society and almost everybody is aware of their existence and the work they do. However, it is the current socioeconomic and health crisis brought on by the pandemic Covid-19 which has amplified our focus on these otherwise ignored migrant laborers and the difficulties they have to face. Social media, news as well as public opinion has varied greatly on the issue but there seems to be a consensus on the fact that India probably saw a great many deaths of these laborers before an equal number of people died due to Covid-19. Due to the sudden lockdown of all transport systems, lack of information and a great amount of mismanagement on the part of the states as well as central authority – many of these laborers have had to undertake inter-state journeys on foot with all their belongings on their shoulders. This has been extensively captured and documented by the media which has then shaped public opinion. In such a context where these migrant laborers are suddenly under the spotlight, Ranabir Samaddar and Samita Sen spoke in a webinar titled ‘CoVid-19 : Public Health and the Sudden Visibility of Migrant Workers’, organized by CRG (as part of its webinar series #bordersofanepidemic). Sukanya Bhattacharya reports on the webinar organized on 12th June, 2020.

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Public Lectures by S. Akbar Zaidi and Kanak Mani Dixit: A Report

Snehashish Mitra

The Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung organized two public lectures in Kolkata as a part of their ongoing research programme – ‘Social Mapping of Logistics, Infrastructure and India’s Look East Policy’. The public lectures were delivered by S Akbar Zaidi, an eminent economist from Pakistan currently teaching in Columbia Universiy and Kanak Mani Dixit, an eminent journalist from Nepal. The title of Zaidi’s lecture was ‘Has China taken over Pakistan’, while Dixit’s title was  ‘Nepal: Gateway into and out of South Asia’. The recent assertion of China in the geopolitics through multiple initiative such as ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) made the event timely and significant.zaidi1

S. Akbar Zaidi and Kanak Mani Dixit with Ranabir Samaddar and Paula Banerjee 

Zaidi’s lecture revolved around the multiple levels of opinions, hope and apprehensions over the CPEC in Pakistan and how Pakistan figured in the grand plans of China’s endeavour of connectivity, particularly land to sea access. CPEC has been the most talked about issue in Pakistan in recent times, particularly over the last 2 years. It has been envisaged as an initiative which would bring enormous benefits for Pakistan through Chinese investments in logistics, infrastructure, defense, biotechnology, agricultural products etc. The rhetoric used for the CPEC collaboration and the reception of the Chinese president Xi Jinping during his visit to Pakistan indicate the level of enthusiasm about CPEC in Pakistan. Zaidi apprehended that through CPEC, Pakistan is following the tradition of pandering to foreign support and endorsements like it did earlier with the USA and Saudi Arabia. Zaidi pointed out that China and Pakistan have had a cordial relation in the post 1947 period as Pakistan was the first Islamic country to recognize the People’s Republic of China, the Indo-China war of 1962 further closed the ties between the two nations. A major symbolic gesture was practiced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, finance minister of Pakistan who made the Mao jacket popular in Pakistan. Pakistan has been the third largest buyer of arms from China and received support from China during its Nuclear Programmes. CPEC is supposed to bring in investments worth $46 billion. However the other details of the CPEC are yet to be divulged in public. A leaked document of CPEC published by a reporter in a leading English daily in Pakistan has given the impression that CPEC would involve Chinese hand in almost every sector of Pakistan and would bring the major cities under surveillance and monitoring system. Disseminating Chinese culture through the intellectual community is a major agenda under CPEC. Zaidi cites the figure that around 10,000 Pakistani students are studying in China which is more than the number of Pakistanis studying in the USA. The benefits which are being doled out to Chinese business firms are not being extended to the Pakistan business class, this has led to the fear in Pakistan that the CPEC can well turn out be another East India Company in the making. Continue reading “Public Lectures by S. Akbar Zaidi and Kanak Mani Dixit: A Report”

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