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Crucial Stage

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‘Unlock 5’ guidelines have been issued by the Union Government, addressing the critical sectors of the economy that remain shut. These include schools and colleges, multiplexes, sports facilities, etc. The idea is to have them functional at some level by 15 October. However, considering the different conditions that each state is facing, the final decision has been left to the state governments. In this context, the Uttarakhand Government has already declared it is in no hurry and will await feedback from parents, students and managements of schools and colleges before taking action. This is particularly important as recent trends in Covid-19 spread have been unsettling. The focus has been on getting tourism back on track, which is naturally putting pressure on an already exhausted administration. It would be wise to see how much this opening up has impacted transmission rates before taking further risks.

In the case of multiplexes, which are the crucial interface of an industry that provides direct and indirect employment to crores of people, there is a flexibility of approach that can be adopted. These have a varying clientele that does not necessarily have to be price conscious. The economics of recovery can be worked out by adjusting physical distancing with pricing of tickets. It will crucially depend, as always, on whether audiences wish to see the upcoming films on the large screen. They have been making do, thus far, with the OTT platform, but most films require the cinema hall experience. It will be a challenge for film-makers to provide suitable content, particularly as a particular genre of films and serials is already emerging suited to the new platform. The coming days will show how this will be worked out. One can be cautiously optimistic as the response to the opening up of tourism, hotels, restaurants, bars, etc., has been good.

In the case of educational institutions, the State Education Minister, Arvind Pandey, has declared it will be a three stage process, with junior classes opening last. Older school children can be expected to understand the need for strict protocols and abide by them. Unfortunately, schools with poor infrastructure will be most challenged. Obviously, they will be the last to open, giving an advantage, once again, to the more privileged sections of society. Most importantly, parents will have to be brought on board, for the indications at the present are they are not too enthusiastic about it. The financial issues of private schools will also be a factor at play. Much will depend on how the infection rate pans out in the days to come.