It looks as though Indians are far far away from being serious of the consequences of the deadly coronavirus if at all it spreads like a wildfire at the community level, going by the behaviour of moving around freely.
Despite this being the fifth day of the national lockdown, the general public, irrespective of the towns, cities and states they belong to, tends to seek rescue in the same pattern of unwanted, unwarranted and more dangerous way of loitering around — whether genuinely required or not.
In fact, this tendency of behaviour is not being noticed for the first time. That seems to be the order of the day ever since the Janata Curfew was declared to be observed on last Sunday 22 March.
It appears Indians have no thought on the precautionary measures initiated by the state and central governments in their own interest and the interests of the society and country at large.
Though it has been made crystal clear that the emergency services like water, milk, electricity, petrol, diesel, LPG, Bank/ATM, groceries, fruits and vegetable supply will go unhindered and unabated, most of the shopping malls witnessed a mad rush as if the world were coming to a grinding halt and it was only the last day left for shopping in the lifetime.
In spite of all possible media being flooded with a never before overdose quantum of information, required or worth discarding the common mass tends to pay scant respect to the stipulations being suggested in their own safety and care.
Indians across many cities continue to go for morning and evening walks. Some wish to do so in the same small or big groups while still a few of them are least bothered in covering their faces with the required masks.
It is no better situation either in vegetable shops and groceries outlets. Despite fervent calls and appeals for maintaining social distancing, Indians are found grouping during the purchases.
The farmers are having a tough timing in selling their produce as they are shunted away from the regular marketing joints by the police and people patrolling the areas. The small-time vendors are equally facing a tough time in making a living for being forbidden in selling on their typical cart shops.
All the migrant labourers are facing the toughest challenge of their lifetime. They desperately want to reach their native places but are handicapped by means of transport completely stalled.
A few thousand are on the move of something unthinkable, walking barefoot hundreds of kilometres. In the process, a couple of them have also lost their lives. No one knows how long this inhuman turmoil continues to remain.
Ranjit Singh, Rajasthan Congress leader fears: “It may not be a big surprise if the number of starvation deaths could be much more than the coronavirus victims unless immediate remedial measures are initiated on a war footing basis!”
GM Shirahatti, septuagenarian and former director of Bengaluru Doordarshan Chandana television channel, opines, “I see shocked to see people everywhere and many common men are not aware of what it is. Everybody connected with communication is creating a phobia; no one is seriously educating Indians. The government should have given some time to people to be prepared as it gave in the case of Janata Curfew.”
If possible in the city there should army parade in the streets. All the essentials should be made available to rural and working Indian, Shirahatti said. “In other countries, rich people are donating their fortune for medical treatment but in our country, our rich people except one or two are simply clapping hands. The government should also think of putting a special cess on certain services,” he added.
Smita Mysuru, former head of Women’s and Children’s Programmes, AIR, comments, “Our media is creating a lot of fear and at the same time creating some awareness. Some media houses are telling don’t open the door, don’t talk with anyone, restrict your movements while some ministers are telling don’t be so panic, wearing masks is not necessary etc.”
Social media is not far behind. WhatsApp contacts are sending enough messages. Many doctors, experts are appearing and giving a lot of advice. “As a mother, grandmother and wife I try to follow every advice and many times l forget one or the other so it’s better to give correct and not confusing guideline to follow,” she adds.
Vijay Bhaskar Reddy, senior advocate at the Karnataka High Court feels “the government has not shirked its responsibility towards those of our unfortunate brethren. It has formulated several schemes to compensate for the loss of earning, food supply etc. But in the suddenness of the unfolding of events little foreseen by anyone, to press into service these schemes would take some time. Till such time the necessary evil has to be faced. This is the most unfortunate part but inevitable.”
“But society also has a lot of responsibility to mitigate the hardship of those lacking in wherewithals. We can stop our housemaids but continue to pay their salary. Apartments can stop their menial staff but compensate for the wages. Companies can device means to pay as many wages as possible as a part-time measure. Meanwhile, everyone who can contribute towards relief fund can generously donate. Most of all we must strictly follow the social isolation and confine to our homes,” Reddy says.
Meanwhile, a plea has been filed today in the Supreme Court stating that restricting the movement of people without providing adequate amenities such as access to food, medicine and other necessities as a violation of constitutional mandate. “One has to wait and see the outcome. In the interregnum, government should seriously move in to address the situation,” Reddy concludes.
According to medical sources, the deadly infectious virus is in its third stage of spreading at the community level. Governments have played their role smartly. But now the onus is upon Indians at large.
In comparison to the population of our country, the numbers of infections and deaths may be minuscule in nature. But a lethargic attitude in adhering to the norms prescribed by the governmental agencies may prove to be too hazardous a picture later.
All these days, Indians have been seeking pride in boasting of negligible casualties compared to the worst-hit nations. But being overconfident may also lead to a major disaster, who knows?