rime Minister Narendra Modi’s 21-day lockdown has started showing its ugly underbelly as thousands upon thousands leave cities such as Delhi, which are crippled by the lockdown. The state government appears clueless as much as the Centre and the Opposition leadership is crying hoarse about the crisis precipitated by mismanagement, while offering no solution. The first thing that any party needs to realise is that this is an unprecedented crisis of global proportions. Anything that is being done by the respective countries is experimental. But when these experiments are not backed by adequate efforts on the part of people, chaos is bound to occur.
While there are several instances of the lockdown being breached with impunity by those uncaring of the gravity of the situation, there are also scenes of the police using physical violence to make citizens comply. It is true that there is a lack of preparedness on the part of the government in terms of controlling COVID-19. But the question is whether the government can solely be blamed for the crisis. People coming out with complaints about the situation are not in the least contributing to the welfare of those millions they are shedding crocodile tears about. Perhaps, the country needs efforts of the nature that was seen during natural calamities such as cyclones in Orissa or the cloudburst in Mumbai some years back.
What the exodus of migrant labourers from cities is showing is merely the lack of humanity among the people employing them in these cities. Migrant labourers could be supported by their neighbours or more appropriately their former employers to sustain themselves through the tough times. In fact, the local governments could take it upon themselves to accommodate these people in temporary shelters or accommodation that can be set up at short notice until the spread of disease is controlled. The only other viable option would be to arrange transport for the labourers to get back to their hometowns without hassle. If the army needs to be deployed, it must be at the earliest rather than making matters worse and allowing it to grow into a spectacle. If the governments or the Opposition is serious about people and not politics, they should come together to work for the benefit of the masses at this terrible juncture rather than indulging in mudslinging. The cheap popularity they may gain out of these exercises will only push the country deeper down the hole of crisis.
It may be true that the country will have to bear huge economic costs for the shutdown. But the fact remains that lives are precious and the spread of disease can take many lives and overwhelm the healthcare infrastructure. The situation in the US is clear indicator that the most powerful nation in the world is ill equipped to fight COVID-19 today. India also cannot fight the disease by acting in isolation. Going by all accounts the proposed lockdown is the most viable solution to prevent spread of the disease. It is achievable. But the government will have to buck up and pool the necessary resources at the right places to ease tensions and bottlenecks. Every extra day that a migrant labourer or someone in the unorganised sector is left jobless, the chances of hunger setting in and weakening immunity is bound to increase.
That will leave an already vulnerable population of the poor more susceptible to the disease. It will only help to make the disease more burdensome on India. The country needs to work together to fight the disease called hunger.