By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 5 Jun: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines issued for Unlock 1.0 have permitted religious places like temples, churches and mosques to reopen from 8 June. However, the authority to take the final call in this respect rests with the state governments as mentioned clearly in these guidelines. The Centre has also permitted the states to take a final call on opening restaurants, bars, dhabas as well as shopping malls, though schools, cinema theatres, swimming pools and gymnasiums have not been allowed, so far, by the Centre.
Taking the cue from this, the Uttarakhand Government expressed its desire to permit the Char Dham Yatra any day, now, albeit on a limited scale and is expected to soon issue “appropriate” orders on this! This has obviously surprised and shocked many people including the priests of the Char Dham shrines! In fact, they have strongly opposed the expected move of the state government and have urged it not to permit the Char Dham Yatra at least till 30 June.
While the desire to restart is understandable, as the Char Dham Yatra is a lifeline for the residents of places that fall along it as well as a source of revenue for the state government, but to think of doing so at a time when the Corona cases are sharply rising everyday is surprising to say the least.
Not just this, some other decisions of the government have also come in for criticism from some quarters. For example, the decision on opening the shops in the state from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. was not welcomed even by the traders, themselves, though the state government had claimed that the decision had been taken at their demand. Even now, a large number of shopkeepers are closing their shops around 4 p.m., itself, leaving the government officials confused and somewhat embarrassed. As a result, an order was issued on Thursday that the markets would remain closed every Saturday and Sunday till further orders. Even this order has not been welcomed by the traders. Though the pretext is sanitisation of the market places, the idea is hardly practical! How can entire markets and cities be sanitised effectively is the question raised by several Congress leaders.
One prime example of the prevalent confusion in the state and the district administration with respect to issuing orders is the Niranjanpur Sabzi Mandi! The first case of Corona positive was detected in the Mandi more than a fortnight ago! Then more cases followed, which led to sealing of one block inside the Mandi and closing down of merely some shops. Even as the number of cases continued to be detected in the Mandi, the government and the district administration kept looking the other way. As a result, the government was forced to take a knee jerk reaction on Thursday by ordering sealing of the Mandi complex till 11 June. Why was the Mandi allowed to become a hotspot in the first place is a very pertinent question that needs to be asked!
Cabinet Minister Satpal Maharaj’s curious case is also an example in this regard. Following news reports that some of the devotees of Maharaj, who is a religious guru, too, had visited him without proper permission as they had come from outside the city, Maharaj’s residence at Municipal Road was ordered to be sealed but, in reality, the portion of the house sealed was on the Circular Road side. And, though, the residence of Maharaj was sealed, he kept on attending work in normal fashion and had even attended the Cabinet Meeting on 29 May. Why the protocols wee not followed in this case is still unclear. Strangely, after testing positive for Corona, Maharaj was allowed by the AIIMS administration to get discharged and go home, when the protocols prevailing in Uttarakhand did not permit this even in asymptomatic cases. However, when concerns were raised on social media immediately after Maharaj’s discharge from the Hospital, the Hospital administration summoned him back and he was readmitted to the hospital along with his family!
On the one hand, a large number of persons are being allowed home quarantine after returning from other states in Uttarakhand, and on the other, those arriving by flights to Dehradun are being forced to go for hotel quarantine at their own expense. Hotel quarantine has not been made mandatory by other states in the country for anyone.
What has been perplexing for many is why the migrants who returned to their native villages were asked to quarantine in their respective villages when in a large number of villages, there are not adequate arrangements for quarantining the migrants and no medical facilities at all. As a result, a large number of migrants have been forced to stay in poorly set up tents in unhygienic conditions. This led to death of a young girl due to snake bite in Pauri district! It may be pertinent to point out here that the Uttarakhand High Court had asked the state government to create quarantine facilities along the entry points (the borders of the state) of the state. This would have been far more practical and safer for the migrants as well as for the villagers. Similarly, there are complaints regarding sanitation and poor quality food being provided at quarantine centres not only in the villages in the hills but also in places like Dehradun, Haridwar and Haldwani!
Another public concern needs to be addressed soon by the government. There are indications that schools may be permitted to open from the first week of July and with the Corona graph refusing to go down or even flatten even by that time, the parents are concerned about the safety of their children should the schools reopen. Sources state that the residential schools are also pressuring the government to allow them to open from the first week of July but the parents are scared for very obvious reasons! The government needs to take a very cautious approach keeping safety of children in mind while taking a final call on this!