A war on pandemic: Let the fight be with fairness

Sep 26, 2022

The Pandemic is a national issue. However, in our federal system, health care is assigned as a State matter, enabling the Central government to pass the buck to the States. With the immense size of illogical measures, the agony of people keeps mounting. 

Now the central government is deeply cornered about the uncontrolled second wave of the pandemic. Many people believe the Centre is responsible for the mismanagement of the second wave. Some believe the State machinery has failed in managing the crisis, because of inadequate infrastructure at their disposal. Lockdown was the popular measure that is used for controlling the spread. However, as the lockdown has proven to be inadequate and damaging for the economy, the Centre is hesitant to take any call on lockdown. In the first lockdown, which lasted for many months, more than seven lakh direct jobs and several times more indirect jobs were lost.


There have been too many lacunas in the overall pandemic management since the beginning right from treatment protocol to the management of lockdown induced socio-economic chaos. Volumes have been written and talked about in the media. A year ago we saw how migrant workers had managed to return home to feel safe. It is very miserable that the same story is repeating now also.


For public travelling, there should be a common policy. According to the Central government directive, inter-state or inter-district movements of people shouldn’t be restricted. Still, Karnataka and Goa ruled by the party the Prime Minister represents did not care. Though the Prime Minister repeatedly called for micro containment as a better way to isolate from the virus, none took it seriously.


Now for emergency travellers, the passage has become a nightmare, because of the disparity in the decision of lockdown and travelling rules. People who wanted to move interstate were in severe trouble. It was made mandatory to carry the RT-PCR negative report 72 and 48 hours before their travels to and fro in many states, which, of late, ICMR advised to withdraw. But many states still follow illogical orders. The testing labs were overloaded with samples, that delayed results and eventually no use for passengers, whose date of journey got to pass over. If a person from Maharashtra wished a four-day visit to his ailing parents in Kerala, the person would have to undergo the RT-PCR test twice within 96 hours. That was impractical. What if there was an infection between the time of testing and travelling? State governments should have thought of easing the people from troubles, after all, people were tired too much mentally and financially.


The policy should have been revoked long ago. Such orders indicated how miserably our local governments had planned to manage the pandemic. A set of policies that had no sense. Good sense usually comes late! But a late decision of managing disease and crises may prove to be a disaster.


Contrarian approaches between States were common. There was no consensus over the pandemic issues at least among the states which were equally hit. Ultimately, people bore the brunt. Their freedom was immensely curtailed. Their right to move to their native home in summer was dictatorially checked.


The Prime Minister in his address to the nation on 20th April 2021 said the full lockdown was only a last resort. Exactly a week later, the Karnataka government ruled by BJP declared complete lockdown sparing essential services, construction works, manufacturing and agriculture sectors. Wasn’t it throwing a challenge to the call of the Prime Minister? In the case of healthcare, States were free to act, though the Central government has the program and planning responsibility. But many quarters suggested lockdown and some quarters found it unnecessary. Each one talked according to their interest. Ultimately, people were put to suffer.

Last year’s blanket ban of vehicle movement in summer made most people abjure from meeting their parents and relatives. The choked basic right of an individual was not a silly issue. The fear of rising death count induces everyone to join their parents and be at native homes. The death of VIPs also adds to the fear of ordinary people. The lopsided regional approach has irritated everyone. The abuse of regional power rises from the lack of a common national policy that can set a standard across all regions. Our lawmakers are seemingly disinterested in dwelling on judicious actions. Actions are taken for the sake of claiming that some actions have been taken, ultimately for some personal benefits.


The present crisis of a rapid spike in cases, oxygen shortage and short supply of certain medicines, etc. greatly owe to the regional government’s incoherent approaches. The private healthcare providers also contributed their dubious share. The vaccine programme is in a mess. One troubles the other in a typical sadistic style.


There is plenty of lacuna in the overall pandemic management right from treatment protocol to lockdown induced socio-economic chaos. In the pandemic period, there has to be a standard set of a crisis management system. Incidentally, among states, there is no uniformity in quarantine policy, charges for testing, of late, in the case of terms of lockdown, which are varying from State to State and Municipal region to municipal region.


In every state, strict lockdown norms could only make people’s life more miserable, if lawmakers are out to enforce it by the printed rules. In Maharashtra the lockdown allowed essential services to operate from 7 AM to 11 AM. In Karnataka, it is between 6 AM to 10 AM. After the permitted time, Municipal authorities and police make a ride through markets and shops with half shutter. Traders are bound to do their trading secretly, if not allowed openly. That reality makes the lockdown only a sham.


Under a federal system, States are not supposed to frame their own rules which contradict the neighbours rule. The federal system gives leeway only to accommodate local factors. Pandemic is not a local factor. This is only an abuse of power for making the life of people miserable. Let the people move where they want. Let the government facilitate their safe movement without martial orders. The problem of each citizen is different from others. Nevertheless, it is only with the perfect cooperation between people and government the Himalayan task of combating the pandemic can give due results.


The government has called the pandemic a war that we fight. So everything should be fair in war and love.