Politics cannot pretend to divide business and life into essential and non-essential


With the rise of the Omicron wave, the Department for the Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), based in Udyog Bhawan in the national capital, relaunched its monitoring and control room to ensure the proper delivery. “essential” goods and services. , as was the case in the second wave, facilitated the unhindered movement of essential commodities across the country. It’s far better than the chaos of last summer, when governments, in states and in the center, issued hundreds of rules and notifications, many of which were contradictory, with enforcement authorities on the terrain that struggle to interpret them, resulting in a slowdown in the flow of goods – governing what is essential and what is not. But it’s far from ideal.

Governments are not good at guessing markets. Printer ink cartridges, paper, and stationery may seem unnecessary to public servants, but could be essential for someone’s livelihood. Bureaucrats may decide to postpone elective surgeries or haircuts, but such services could make a difference in people’s level of comfort and well-being.

Governments exceed the limits of their abilities and skills when seeking to control lives by assuming that bureaucrats can know what is essential to live and do business. One of the lessons of the pandemic, especially the red tape and the delays seen in vaccinating large populations around the world, is that the incompetence of bureaucrats and politicians can dull even the ingenuity of science. What is really not essential? Daily wages? Comfort loved ones who are grieving alone?

The distinctions between essential and non-essential are dubious, and bureaucrats seeking to define these categories only betray a dangerously narrow understanding of what it takes to sustain life and livelihoods. By dividing existence into essential and non-essential, governments open themselves to scrutiny of motives. For it is natural for citizens to ask why mass rallies for election rallies or religious celebrations are okay while classroom learning in schools and colleges is not.

When it comes to business, the bulk of sales fall into the non-essential category. If e-commerce businesses are able to provide a good or service from home, why should bureaucrats seek to limit it? Last year, offline physical stores saw the growth of e-commerce as a threat that could dislodge them from the business. But resistance from those neighborhoods has likely dulled, with mom-and-pop stores tying in with e-commerce giants, increasing their activity, reducing the time and distance to travel for deliveries.

Around this time last year, most of us were counting weeks to get vaccinated and say goodbye to the pandemic forever. A year later, even the double vaccinated are exactly where they were then: trying to live with lost freedoms and uncertainty. When the decision maker counts the costs and benefits of his decisions, does he ask himself what is the value of an object to a grieving or stressed person? At all times, but especially during the disturbing experience of a ensuing pandemic, we can do with less intrusive governments.

Udyog Bhawan would do well to facilitate the movement of deliverable goods and services, without trying to categorize them on essential and non-essential lines.

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