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Looking Ahead

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The ‘suspension’ of the Chardham Yatra by the Uttarakhand Government is the right decision under the present circumstances. This follows upon the truncation of the Kumbh Mela. It may be noted that both these events are major economy boosters for the state. The repercussions of their cancellation, as well as of leisure tourism activities, will deliver a major blow to the livelihoods of the people. The economy had barely recovered from the lockdowns of last year and now this has happened.

The present situation needs to be intelligently addressed so that the damage is minimalised and the recovery path is quickly taken when the Covid surge is contained. This requires anticipatory steps to be taken from right now. People very much need to adopt practices in their immediate environment so that they keep the infection out. Covid’s return is due to the fact that, where it mattered, the protocols were either not adopted or not strictly enforced. Those institutions that did are suffering because of the negligence of others.

Uttarakhand should begin to think of getting ahead of the national curve. For this, it should set up barriers between parts of the state relatively not affected and those that are. The infection was brought to the hill districts by returning migrants and tourists. But they still remain better protected because of their remoteness. They should be defended first, particularly by speeding up the vaccination drive. Attention should be paid to protecting the districts in the plains by insulating them as much as possible. The testing drive should be ramped up at the state’s borders, while random testing should be carried out in stressed areas. The protocol on home isolation treatment needs to be worked out so that people’s condition does not worsen and the last minute rush for hospital beds is averted. Citizens everywhere should set up teams of local volunteers to assist the affected by providing necessary support such as meals, medicines, oxygen cylinders if required, and in getting medical advice. The ghastly scenes of families having to fend for themselves would be prevented. The methodology for this has to be worked out by experts, communicated to the grassroots and coordinated by the authorities.

The state should also contemplate inviting the already fully vaccinated sections of the populace to travel to its tourism and pilgrimage destinations at attractive rates. Such ‘privileges’ are now being provided in other countries for this category of person. It will keep hope alive among those who are presently facing an unprecedented livelihood crisis.