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Early Setback

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Even as India works to prevent onset of community transmission of the Corona Virus through the lockdown strategy, it is also grimly preparing for the dreaded stage three. Hospitals are being geared up, ventilators
manufactured and procured, various innovative ways adopted to set up isolation wards, all medical facilities being prepared – be they government or private – etc. The lockdown is a desperate move, for which the nation will have eventually have to pay the bill in terms of an
economic slowdown. It would be tragic if, even after doing so, the outcome does not prove to be as desired.

The sudden exodus of migrant workers from Delhi, in particular, indicates how the entire strategy can be upended in one go. If reports are true that some elements deliberately started rumours which triggered and accelerated this upsurge, it is even more irresponsible and tragic. Of course, at the individual level, people will seek to look for the best option they feel suits them and their families after considering various factors. In desperate times, this can cause
destructive stampedes, causing large scale problems. This is why there are governments that have to sometimes take the hard decisions in favour of the larger good.

The number of fatalities and patients is picking up in India. The declared objective is to delay and spread out the increase so that the medical facilities can cope. In countries like Italy, Spain, Iran and, now, the US, the system’s response has failed to manage this. The tragedy is that it only requires a very simple stratagem,
‘social distancing’, to prevent the epidemic altogether. If the populace had been disciplined enough to do so, there would not even have been the need for a lockdown.

In fact, after the present crisis gets over, the people of India will have learned some valuable lessons regarding discipline and a hygienic lifestyle. They will also have had the opportunity to discover from among themselves the true heroes, and the villains. The city of Delhi, for instance, which takes pride in its ancient history and culture, failed miserably in the very first
instance. It could not sustain its daily wagers for even a day after they were rendered jobless and, thus, ‘useless’. If there had been soul in the city and a large-hearted population, those most severely affected would have found succour and support. No longer should it be
claimed, ‘Dilli hai dil walon ki’!