TODAY -

Come by-election, COVID-19 lurking around

SK Singh *



Its great news that the MHA has finally issued SOP for political gathering in poll bound states. In a modification to the reopening guidelines the MHA on 8th October allowed political parties to hold rallies, address voters in open areas in 12 poll bound states before October 15.

The order, inter-a-lia, said, “In exercise of powers conferred under Section 10(2)(1) of the DMAct 2005 , it is decided that the state government s concerned may permit political gatherings, outside the containment zones, beyond the existing limits of 100 persons on any date before 15 October in those Assembly or Parliamentary constituencies only, where the elections are to be held”.

The order also talked about closed or open spaces. For closed spaces, like halls, auditoriums etc 50% of the capacity with a ceiling of 200 persons would be eligible. For open spaces, there appears to have no restriction on the number, except for the mandatory protocols like, face mask, distancing and thermal scanning and hand wash.

These are general prescriptions of the Centre. The states and UTs will have to take care of finer details of SOP to ensure regulation of such political gatherings and for strict compliance of the same. The responsibilities of the state/UT governments are large in maintaining permissible entry of audiences.

The problem of complying with prescribed protocols arises here. Where the political bosses would be keen to have larger audience, equally anxcious voters would be too ready to show their faces. And such a situation is a fertile area for the pandemic to show its presence.

One may recall that on September 30 the MHA had issued guidelines allowing states and UT governments to ‘permit social, academic, sports, entertainment, cultural, religious and political functions and other congregations outside the containment zones, beyond the existing limit of 100 persons after October 15. This very important guideline, largely for political considerations, is further toned down by the October 8 Guidelines.

And this is a fertile area for the widespread contact of the dreaded virus, in a place where the ground reality cannot be rated as ‘comfortable’. For one, our personal hygiene, generally rated, is nothing short of ‘poor’. For another, we are used to ignore advice often vehemently; we belong to a class who claims to be ‘know-all’. ‘Mind-your-business’ breed.

And such an atmosphere of indifference, inappropriate public air is just fertile for the rapid surge of this highly contagious disease. Look around outside the houses, in the market places, the main roads, the public places, crowds swell as the day passes without one most important ingredient, ‘social distancing’.

They have masks, that is OK, they have even sanitizer sprays handy, but where is the other protocol of 3 feet or 6 feet distancing. Taming the spike when community transmission has set in, one most important step could be change in human behavior of majority populace.

And this is not just easily achieved. People have to be informed, informed of the facts, the reality of the situation on the event of incessant surge, a state looming large in our environment. Could the government turn to be more proactive in enforcing ‘spacing’, an element we throw to the winds.

And this neglect can be costly; the result we have already noticed in the daily spike squarely around 240. True, human traits speaks of indifference, ineptitude and worst still laid-back attitude after a spell of confinement for months in a stretch. The rigorous of alienation, isolation from near and dear ones for long often loses tempo ultimately letting loose all elements of guard.

And with the election tempo building up, with an atmosphere fertile for the COVID-19 pandemic lurking around, there is sure to have more difficult times for the country and in particular, Manipur to face century’s most dreaded virus still on a rampage.

A visibly worried PM with his all- white beard failing to get the usual care of trimming, minted another concept to arouse the conscience of the common man, toyed with the idea of yet another campaign of what his advisers coined, ‘Jan Andolan’.

In essence, Modi losing ground fast his earlier reputation of handling the COVID-19 most strategically in the beginning, flirts with another game plan of associating with the people where all and sundry be enthused to activate campaign, boost morale support, to associate with the campaign to arouse public awareness, spread message to reach every nook and corner, actively associate with the electronic and print media, sport banners and posters in more popular public places, associate with popular personalities to reach the common man with the message of ‘do’s and don’ts’, the list of possibilities is long.

The idea could be superb. The question is how to bell the cat. The government machineries, of course not; they are not cut for this type of motivational tasks at all. Left to them alone, the ‘Andolan’ is destined to fail. Merely taking an oath in the open with top executives and Ministers is destined to end without trace.

Our state Manipur is too figuring among the most precarious situations with daily spike of nearly 280 fresh cases almost mostly from community transmission. The situation is nothing short of perilous given the trend of surge Vis -a -Vis the poor adherences to SOP, a practice inherent in us. This surge is destined to reach further heights unless the government thinks of new strategy instantaneously.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 14th October 2020.



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