The pandemic as catalyst: making a case for reimagining our social contracts (Looking to India as a case study)

Most of us are aware of the catastrophic second wave of COVID-19 lashing through South Asia at the moment (particularly through India, and increasingly Nepal and other neighboring countries). Despite talking to some of my family and friends daily, I cannot actually imagine their experience in India. From the outside (I am based in Bangkok), I am worried and overwhelmed by the haunting images of mass cremations, or having a twitter feed that is equal exposure to absolutely desperate pleas for help on one hand, and social solidarity and community organizing on the other. I waiver between tears and waves of helplessness, to gratitude and hope. It is being said that almost no family in India will leave this without either having family members contracting COVID-19 or losing family to it. This holds true for our family and every person I know in India. This is a shared trauma of a truly unimaginable scale. The second wave's velocity and severity when combined with our structural and systemic gaps and governance vacuums has impacted people across a very wide cross-section of our society, including 'the financially privileged'. The feeling of helplessness is no longer restricted to those with little. We will ALL hold stories of this time within ourselves. And, this shared experience should not be taken lightly. It could be catalytic. The question we should start asking is, when we do emerge from this, and we will in due time....what might we want to choose to hold on to, fight for, and let go, as members of society? As we know, nothing becomes systemic overnight, and in that lies hope. Could we start to reimagine the social contracts that bind us together? What would they look like in practice? Which social group(s) did you never think of before that you want to be connected to going forward? What might these new social contracts need to consider? Please join me in what I hope to be an engaging and uplifting collective conversation. In a time of trauma, an exploration of our shared humanity.

June 3, 2021


Prateeksha Singh

Prateeksha Singh

Head of Experimentation

UNDP Asia-Pacific