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Necessary Response

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The severity of the lockdown in Uttarakhand has been increased due, partly, to the irresponsible behaviour of the many who are looking at this ongoing crisis as an unexpected ‘holiday’. According to a survey, over sixty percent of Indians believe the Corona Virus scare to be exaggerated. This is one of the reasons why the response to the threat continues to be judged on partisan lines. However, whatever the sentiments, it is better to be safe than sorry – a principle that is being followed in the state, with precautionary measures being introduced on a daily basis.

On Tuesday, too, the State Cabinet announced steps to prepare for a large scale COVID-19 outbreak, which included declaring four government medical colleges as treatment centres exclusively for the disease. The earlier curbs on inter-state movement, too, are to ensure people do not carry the virus from elsewhere in the country to the remote villages, where treatment would be near impossible. How far these steps have proved successful will become known over time. At the same time, though, certain initiatives are proving counter-productive, such as limiting the number of hours that shops selling essential commodities can open. This has led not just to crowds at these shops, but also panic buying. This undermines the very purpose of social distancing.

The government should not only extend the number of hours the shops can remain open, but also proactively work on ensuring continuity of supply. This would require proper supervision of the supply chain. A firm hand at the wheel and well thought out moves will ensure the people are not stressed psychologically and behave rationally. Hurried and panicked responses will have the opposite effect. It is also important that daily wage workers and others in the low income category are provided food at government centres and by other charitable institutions in very carefully managed ways. Municipalities need to pay special attention to the slum areas so that people not just adhere to the social distancing norms, but also do not suffer too much from the adverse effects of the lockdown. Pointers can be taken from the measures taken by other state governments in this regard.

Also, a taskforce should be set up, at once, to craft a plan on resuscitating the economy once the crisis has been resolved. This should include immediate measures to kick-start the tourism sector upon which the state’s economy is critically dependent. The people, on their part, should try and make things easier for the government by extending their fullest and intelligent cooperation.