From the Viewsroom

Covid, a civilisational malady

A Srinivas | Updated on October 08, 2020 Published on October 08, 2020

Gandhiji would perhaps have seen it an outcome of the modern food economy

Nearly a year after it surfaced in China, Covid-19 has infected 36 million people and killed over a million; in India, the number of cases has climbed rapidly to 6.8 million, and the deaths to 1.05 lakh. While the march of the pandemic will eventually be arrested by a combination of herd immunity and the arrival of the ‘vaccine’ — in that order — a crucial fact must be accepted: Covid is essentially a “lifestyle disorder”.

It has turned lethal because of the wide prevalence of non-communicable diseases (diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease). But the term ‘lifestyle disorder’ merely trivialises what Mahatma Gandhi would have called a ‘civilisational malady’.

In Hind Swaraj, he observes: “There are diseases of which people never dreamt before, and an army of doctors is engaged in finding out their cures, and so hospitals have increased. This is a test of civilisation... Formerly, people had two or three meals consisting of home-made bread and vegetables; now they require something to eat every two hours...”

In his well known slim work, Key to Health, Gandhiji stresses the importance of clean air, water and vegetarian food, physical exercise and intellectual work. He emphasised restraint in the quantity and type of food intake. Today, neither air, water nor food is clean. The US and Brazil — where Covid 19 has been a bigger killer than in poorer countries in Asia and Africa — consume processed non-vegetarian food in large quantities. Whether GM food has reduced immunity, and induced non-communicable diseases is worth looking at. Covid-19 raises questions about the modern food economy — based on mass application of fertiliser, chemicals and pesticides — and its impact on nutritional well-being.

It also tells us that while health infrastructure is important, the individual’s body, mind and physical environment also need to be in harmony with each other. In the US, there is a rethink about city living and supermarket culture. Covid is indeed a disease made worse by modern civilisation.

A Srinivas Senior Deputy Editor

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Published on October 08, 2020
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