The onset of a disaster has different implications for every individual and community affected by it. This is to say that the occurence of a disaster of any kind doesn't affect all people in the same way and there is thus a need to take into account the specificities of people's experiences in understanding the extent and effects of the disaster itself. It may contribute to the continuing persistence of social inequalities, or create new inequalities while getting rid of others. Furthermore, social inequalities are deeply involved in the manner in which aid is (not) recieved by the state and other institutions, which is contingent also upon the nature of the State, in the formulation of policy and measures. How does privilege come into the picture? What can be considered a privilege? How do measures such as social distancing in India for example have deep implications for society by virtue of the existing social inequalities that function along the same lines of restriction and exclusion? If one were to take the example of the 'shock doctrine' then this too has different consequences for the rich and the poor in how they negotiate with such economic reforms and the 'clean slate', because a clean slate also implies erasure. A disaster thus acts both ways, in erasing some lines that are drawn in society as well as in creating new ones, in how the same act of disaster has a variety of implications.
With respect to COVID-19
1. As a means of social distancing and lockdown, those who are in precarious forms of employment are worst hit
2. People in the lower socio-economic segment might be hit more as their access to testing and health-care and interim treatment might be compromised. Given that public health infrastructure in India is already a disaster, the onset of an actual disaster might only exacerbate, with increasing number or patients and limited facilities, thus triage would mean prioritizing some patients over others.
Disaster is a particular time when the social inequalities that were buried deep down surfaces to expose the bundle of lies that nurses the system. To that the instance of COVID-19 in case of India. I shall intentionally use the word migrant to describe the Indians stuck abroad who were brought home by the state machinery during the crisis. However, the daily wage migrants were left with no option but to walk 400kms to their homes in the North. Where the international migrants were screened in the airport, the internal migrants were sprayed with disinfectants on arrival.
Even the prevention that this crisis seeks in the name of social distancing is a matter of privilege. To be in a house with separate rooms to isolate yourself with a steady supply of essentials is what this is. Can the same be applied to Dharavi? Of course not. And how does even account for the rise of domestic violence after social distancing?
What becomes important is to understand at what level of hierarchy do we plan our preventive or curative measures, does it do justice to the least privileged? And this has often to do with the access that any individual has directly with the state machinery.