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Alternate Paths

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Former Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat is the latest to suggest that those who have been fully vaccinated be allowed to visit the Char Dham in Uttarakhand. This has been shot down by Minister Subodh Uniyal as not feasible at the present because vaccinated people could still be carriers of the virus. This reflects a generally cautious approach by government to dealing with the second wave of the pandemic, which has been much more severe in its impact than the earlier one. In light of the fact that it has been largely controlled by the state-and- location-specific lockdowns, there are mixed reactions on what to do next.

This is reflected in the minor concessions that have been made in the latest extension of the ‘curfew’ in Uttarakhand. There are so many ifs and buts, as well as conditions, people can be forgiven if they fall foul of them. In the week that government has given itself on what to do next, it would be worth considering what instrumentalities are available to it on returning life to something like normal. That there exists now a section of vaccinated population should be part of the proposed plans. Matched with the availability now of a variety of relatively cheap, speedy, ‘do it yourself’ tests, a system can be developed by which movement of people for tourism and pilgrimage purposes could be allowed. Certainly, tourism within the state could be a first step. There are many ‘lockdown exhausted’ people in Doon seeking escape to local destinations such as Dhanaulti, Mussoorie, Chakrata, etc. An examination of the latest rules indicates that this is not possible, at present. Even if one is prepared to get tested for Covid.

There are also the practical aspects that have to be considered. The strictest rules are failing, even now, to prevent crowding in shops and markets that are allowed to open. On the other hand, the hotels, restaurants and malls have the ability to enforce the rules more strictly. A vaccinated clientele, more testing, a controlled environment would be the way to go, rather than hoping that the thelawala will conform to the necessary standards of hygiene and social distancing. Government will wait to see what the daily infection and death rates are before taking further decisions, but it should work out alternative models to pursue based on the results that emerge. One wonders if this is being done.