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The Covid-19 crisis exposes deep class contradiction


Will you, the bourgeois economists and social theorists, still claim that our society is devoid of class division? If such is the case, how do we characterize a social relationship in which the healthcare system is exclusively for the rich?

Kh Ibomcha

When a society is confronted with a crisis, such as the one we are currently experiencing, the class character of social relations is frequently exposed.  Covid-19 is currently wreaking havoc in the state, and the class character of society is becoming increasingly apparent. Perhaps the few elites who advocated for the non-existence of class oppression in society have run out of arguments to defend their bourgeois position. On the other hand, we have found multiple factual truths from Covid-19 that highlight the existence of class contradiction in our society.

If we are to respond effectively to any social problem, we must first understand the deep class structure that exists in society. Or else, it’ll be a humiliating and crushing defeat at the end of the day. To be productive in our inquiry on why Covid-19 affected us so hard, we must first comprehend the deep class character of society. Now is not the time to dismiss Marxist ideas; they are the only way to understand what is currently taking place in the state.

We had a number of cases during Covid 19 where people at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid were unable to pay an exorbitant medical bill.  They couldn’t even freely grieve their loved ones when they saw the medical bills. Now the situation is such that Corona is attacking them at home while bourgeoisie hospital owners are waiting to rob them in the hospital. This isn’t some make-believe fiction; it’s the reality that Kanglei society is confronting right now.

What will you feel if they objectify your mother or father’s dead body and slap a price tag on it? What if you couldn’t bring your mother (or your mother’s body) home to pay your final respects?   This is exactly how the family of Heranggoithong’s Khangembam Pishakmacha would feel when Raj Medicity refused to allow the latter’s body to be carried home to complete her burial rites since the family couldn’t pay the hospital bill of Rs. 2, 71,560.  If the family had been wealthy enough to pay the bill, this scenario would not have arisen, but they are from a lower socioeconomic class.

Will you, the bourgeois economists and social theorists, still claim that our society is devoid of class division? If such is the case, how do we characterize a social relationship in which the healthcare system is exclusively for the rich? According to a report, admission to ‘Raj Medicity’ is only possible if the applicant can pay 50,000 in advance.  It indicates that you can enter the hospital if you have Rs. 50,000; if you don’t, you can’t.  Is there any difference between a five star hotel and ‘Raj Medicity’? How can you argue there is no class division and contradiction in our society in such a situation?

What I see in the first case of “Ima Pisakmacha” is more than just plundering the family in the guise of healthcare. The entire scenario is clearly linked to a moral dilemma that occurs frequently in capitalist society. Can you accept the speaker as a human person when the he says, “You cannot take the body till you clear the bill.” He is no longer a human being; humans do not speak in such a manner. Both capitalists and people have become dehumanized as a result of the profit-making strategy of capitalists. When they objectify a person’s dead body, they are dehumanizing not only the dead individual, but also themselves.

The implication here is that class oppression and contradiction have grown so deep in our culture that Manipur’s people have become completely dehumanized.  It’s come to the point that hospital owners won’t allow poor people carry their relatives’ remains home to pay their final respects to the souls who have died. Forget about class division and class interest for a while; as a human, the hospital would have allowed the body to go home and discuss the bill later if they were enough human. Having said that, I do not endorse the commoditization of patients in healthcare services.

Let’s talk about this episode by linking it to the state’s current fight against Covid 19, where it loses nearly 20 people a day. When I first dissected the episode, the thing that came to me was how we can beat Covid-19 with these hospitals whose basic interests is earning money rather than to save lives.  Is there any reason not to conclude that we are being badly hit by Covid-19 due to state capitalists’ commercialization of healthcare services? This isn’t to say that there aren’t other things at play in the second wave’s devastation.

The truth that we are witnessing now is that the impoverished would choose death over treatment at private hospitals. That’s why we’ve come across a number of poor people who are covid-19 positive yet hide their health status. Forget about obtaining treatment at private hospitals like ‘Raj Medicity’ for a while; they don’t even dare to stand at the hospital’s gate. How can you believe the state can defeat the pandemic with the fewest deaths if healthcare is not accessible to all people, as it is now? Now it seems that you’re beginning to see why we haven’t been able to defeat Covid-19 until now. If the current trend continues, the people of Manipur would have no chance of defeating Covid-19. Rather the virus will remain as long as it can or until human immune system can beat it, murdering as many people as it can.

To wrap up this piece, I’d like to warn the people in the lower social strata about false generosity of the wealthy and the powerful. Money and “having it” are more important to them than humanity. This oppressive social class will go to any length to keep exploit the masses to earn super profit.  That is why the body was allowed to be taken home with a 50% discount, displaying false generosity. This does not, however, mean that the practice has been removed from the system.  I can say with certainty that the same thing is now taking on in most private hospitals across the state, including the same hospital. In a society like ours, all oppressors work together since a challenge to one of them threatens the whole capitalist class. The question here is, “From whom will we receive true generosity?”  True generosity is found in the act of eradicating the social and political conditions that lead to oppression and injustice, not in the act of compensating, lending, or providing any kind of gift or help, as most oppressors, both passive and active, do. Accepting false generosity, such as 60 discounts on the cost of taking a death body home, will only serve the interest of the oppressors, and perpetuate the unjust situation.

(Kh Ibomcha is a socio-political observer who has been regularly contributing to various newspapers and online media in Manipur)

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