Imposition of the lockdown was timely in India, as are the attempts now to gradually lift it, because the country cannot afford to put its economy in suspended animation for long. The need is already being felt to reactivate economic activity, for which the Union Government has issued the necessary guidelines. The implementation of these depends greatly on a nuanced approach at the state and local levels, as conditions are by no means the same everywhere. There are places in the country where there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19. While the reasons for this are not clear, it can be surmised that their remoteness and lack of interface with other parts of the country has a lot to do with it. This, however, is not a general rule, as the virus has also cropped up in the most unexpected of places.
In Uttarakhand, for instance, plans are afoot to relax the lockdown in the ‘green’ districts, which is a good thing and will set the template for other areas. As such, there is no room for complacency and a heavy responsibility falls on the state government and, more particularly, the district administrations to go about it the right way. Even their best efforts, however, will fail if the general public does not extend the necessary cooperation through responsible behaviour. It has been noted, thus far, that even as awareness levels are by now high among all sections of society, people expect everybody else except themselves to abide by the rules. This tendency can prove disastrous for the entire cause.
It is true that India’s performance, so far, has been laudable in controlling spread of the pandemic, but it is also true that the statistics are rising to troubling levels. The most important count, the fatalities, will reach a thousand in a couple of days. Recovery levels are reported to be improving, but still lag behind those in some countries. It really would not matter how many people get infected if they could be effectively cured, but the virus is exhibiting dimensions apart from just feeding off co-morbidities. The urgency of the matter needs to be communicated to the people. The Prime Minister attempted to do just that in his Mann ki Baat on Sunday, asking particularly that habits like spitting, which are second nature with Indians, will have to be completely shed. Political correctness is preventing people from being made aware of which sections of society are being affected most by the virus, but that is having a negative impact. If this information is made public, perhaps the impact of irresponsible behaviour would be better understood by those who believe they are immune to the virus for one or the other reason. The times are too dire to be pussy-footing around inconvenient facts.