ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Emerging Governmentality and Biopolitics of COVID-19 in India

Measures like disciplining and quarantining are associated with the governments’ extraordinary powers during unprecedented times. In this context, the biopolitics of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is discussed. When the steps taken by the government to contain the spread of coronavirus are failing, we need new imageries to tackle the challenges that lie ahead of us.

The authors are thankful to the Steering Committee members of the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India for their critical feedback when the article first presented in the Steering Committee meeting.

The novel coronavirus, popularly known as COVID-19, first observed in Wuhan, China in December 2019, spread swiftly throughout the world, affecting life and society in an unprecedented manner. Although the virus has infested only a fraction of the human population, both globally and within India, the pandemic can be ascribed as a “total social fact”1 due to its influence both at individual and collective levels. However, most of the consequences appear not as a direct outcome of the pandemic itself, but shaped more by the response of nations and governments. In other words, it emerges from the governmentality associated with the pandemic, which thereby becomes an important area for analysis.

In the absence of adequate information on the pathogen and ways of contagion, we had knee-jerk reactions by most of the countries propelled by an “infodemic” of visual and new media. The “modelling” by many experts, not taking into consideration the specific demographic, biological, social and cultural aspects of the population, also helped in spreading the panic. Recently, an article in the Indian Journal of Medical Research notes that “several mathematical models projected the severity of the pandemic in terms of cases and deaths. At least in the context of India, none of these proved correct” (Bhatia and Abraham 2020: 389). This resulted in every other person being viewed as a potential carrier of the virus, creating panic, distrust and suspicion besides a model of containment akin to what existed in the earlier centuries during the plague.

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Updated On : 24th Dec, 2020
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