It is clear that, despite all efforts, the Corona Pandemic is not going away soon. Despite lockdowns and the strictest protocols – such as observed in hospitals and security establishments – it has managed to infect people. Also, it is spreading geographically into areas that had remained untouched thus far – increasing the total numbers. This has put the government and the general public in a quandary – how to continue with activities that cannot be put off any longer? The holding of examinations like NEET, JEE and those for final year students in Universities could not be put off without serious complications. The frontline ‘warriors’ anyway have been functioning since day one, irrespective of the dangers and even paid a heavy price for it in fatalities, but is was never suggested they stop performing their duties. (Unfortunately, particularly in the early stages, they were actually ill-treated by members of the public for doing their job.)
Following this experience and till vaccines become available, the challenge before society has become that of learning how to function ‘normally’. Lessons have to be learned from what has been successful, thus far, and mistakes not repeated. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the virus seems to function in quirky fashion, hitting some much harder than others. It is clear that the elderly and those with previous ailments are more susceptible, but there have also been cases of otherwise healthy, asymptomatic persons suddenly succumbing to the disease. So, there is no space for complacency and whatever has to be done requires the strictest precautions.
Now, it is time for holding of assembly elections in Bihar and 65 bypolls for vacant seats. Schools and colleges have to reopen. Hotels and restaurants are gradually trying to resume functioning while hoping for the best. Cinema halls will come last, but inevitably their time will come. In all these cases, success will greatly depend on how much and intelligently the people cooperate. It is also inevitable that this will result in an increase in the number of infections and, sadly, the fatalities, but it will be a conscious decision given the necessity of not allowing society to descend into uncontrollable paranoia. It is during challenging times such as these that a people can prove their civilised and democratic credentials. Above all, it will require an overall political consensus. It is a relief that, thus far, almost all state governments have pragmatically cooperated with the Centre in combating the problem, and only sundry individuals have chosen to comment disparagingly on the nation’s fight against the pandemic.