he season of festivals is a season of joy. This year, Covid-19 pandemic is spreading a shadow over this season – a gloom for the first time in living memory. A total curb on these festivals is unimaginable but public activities will need to be restrained in view of the social distancing norms now prevalent across the world. Other countries, most of them in Europe, have started preparations for a second wave of the virus. Urban centers of France and Italy have already restarted lockdowns while Britain has been toying with ideas of shutdowns.
An Indian government panel has cautioned against any relaxation in safety protocols during the festival season, saying this could result in a major spike. The chill of the winter itself might help the virus spread. A dire warning is that worse comes to worse, it could be some 26 lakh cases in a month’s time, while infection figure so far totals at 75 lakh and deaths of 1.14 lakh. The end of the festival season and the chimes of the New Year could also signal the start of a new phase in Covid spike while control through a set of vaccines arriving in the market seems very doubtful. The Russians with their vaccine Sputnik have most probably chosen India as human trial country. The eagerness of the people to take it and the desperation of the Union government, coupled together, may spell disaster for us all.
The season starting from August spread over autumn and winter is thick with some religious spirit while devotion is far away. Principal among them, the Durga Puja and the Navratri, is spread over nine nights normally of high action. This and Kali Puja are more prominent in the eastern part of the country while the Ganesh festival set in August-September has its normal focus on the western region. All these are generally marked by massive and feverish street shows. So is Christmas, by end December, marked by Carol singing, church gatherings and midnight mass. This time, all these must be planned small-scale and it is imperative that safety aspects should triumph over these religious concerns.
This kind of caution may not seem or sound sensible to certain types of people. The US has seen No Maskers agitating against wearing of masks. Resultant high death rates in America was for the whole world to see. President Trump was seen as a champion of No Maskers by his supporters. Similarly, the Governor of Maharashtra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, writing to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, has expressed cynical surprise that while the leader of the Shiv Sena used to vouch in the name of Hindutva yet, as CM he is unwilling to permit re-opening of temples for prayers across the state. CM Thackeray has brilliantly replied back to the Governor saying he does not require any certificates from anyone about his beliefs and credentials but he is responsible for the well being of the citizens of his state. Like Trump confusing facts and misguiding Americans on how to handle the disease, we also have, amongst us, a constitutional post holder as a Governor who is capable of suggesting wrong actions to the government.