Opinions expressed are solely personal.
March 25, 2020, is going to be a memorable day in the history of India. The Government announced a nationwide lockdown, bringing its entire economy to a halt for the sake of our nation’s well being. Nobody could have envisioned that what started as a pandemic in China, would escalate so quickly and spread like a wildfire. Organizations across India asked their employees to work from home. Daily wage workers were asked to stay put wherever they are. Doctors and forefront workers, cops and officials took the burden of controlling this pandemic. The government appealed all the employers of daily wage workers that they should not cut their wages nor fire them from work. The government also assured that their daily food requirements would be borne jointly by Central Govt and State Govt.
Celebrities started getting busy with their #lockdownlife posts on IG. Here and there people could see non-stop announcements made by the Government to stay inside their homes. People were asked to leave their houses only at certain timings and that too, only for essential services. The Government even made sure stocking up of grains or vegetables were not needed. In spite of all this, daily we were seeing hundreds and hundreds of migrants taking the walk under the hot sun. Walking miles away, with their bags and kids on top of their heads, their faces severely suntanned and dehydrated. It was very distressing.
Quite quickly the national media started covering it, and this attracted all celebrities, influencers, several NGO’s, Govt officials, volunteers to go out and start distributing ration supplies enough for a month to the migrants. The media started slowly covering all of this by zooming in and zooming out each person a thousand times. It’s a very well known fact that most of the channels are backed by one or the other political party in India. It did not take much time for channels to take undue advantage of the situation. They started poisoning the minds of people by saying “It’s the fault of Government that it did not make apt arrangements for the migration of these workers”.
Just like hundreds of online Tiddi Dal [Locust Swarm], the Tiddi’s of Twitter started tweeting relentlessly tagging each party and the mud-slinging started. We could see party workers of each side taking cheap shots at each other, while the migrant workers were marching one step at a time towards their native places. Nothing stopped them from walking. No media, no relief centre, nothing ever could assure them that their voices are heard. None of them actually addressed the root cause for the worst migration of the decade.
In the hindsight, nobody ever gave a thought about what made the migrants leave the cities, after all, they had travelled all the way from their native places to stay here. Was it the lockdown? Was it their panic state? Or was it the Corona? The answer is none of these. The problem was very simple. When the lockdown was announced, the government expected a very simple gesture from its fellow citizens. i.e to follow basic gesture of humanity. In other words, the Government pleaded its educated citizens to be kind to the homeless, destitute and BPL citizens. But what did we do?
In my own residential complex, the secretary fired all the security guards and maids. He made sure only one guard and one maid was retained. In the neighbourhood buildings, similar scenes were happening. In a residential colony, where the maids spent a maximum of 1 hour at every home were ousted because the secretary was afraid of the pandemic. Several factories, and small scale employers, hoteliers, darshini hotel owners, automobile service station owners, milk diaries, everyone started shunning these migrants away. Within a matter of 48 hours, the reality was very clear for the daily wage worker. There is no work left for them which means they have to either move to another place or in short better return to their own home towns. With whatever little money was left, all the poor worker could do was to pack his bags and leave. One can only imagine what would have gone through his mind, looking at the eyes of his family members and the small kids waiting for food. It’s terrible and scary.
Indian railways and Govt of India opened access to free food. Lakhs of meals were supplied to all migrants at each node. Several IAS officers started making alternate arrangements for these migrant factory workers and poor people. Several government officials donated a day’s salary to PM-CARES fund.
For a country as massive as India, with a population of over 136 Cr+ people, it was a bold decision to stop the economy, incur losses, all for the well being of its citizens. My Gov introduced dedicated Telegram channels to spread correct information and appointed several district and state officials to help people get passes. Arogya Setu app – Indian Government’s Contact Tracing, Syndromic Mapping and Self Assessment tool was asked by public to download. The app crossed 100 million installs within 40 days. Indian Airforce worked ceaselessly in the transportation of essential medicines to all state capitals. Women self-help groups from remote parts of India started making masks on large scale to bridge the gap of deficit in the availability of masks.
Jointly, several government bodies and eminent social personalities came forward to help bust the myths related to Corona. All India Radio FM Channels continuously started broadcasting dedicated programmes where people can ask any kind of doubt they had on the pandemic. Several people from remotest parts of Assam, Sikkim and Meghalaya were constantly calling and asking their queries on the radio show. PM Modi was a regular appearance on all national channels. His message on being self-reliant [aatma nirbhar] was broadcasted and memers made a joke out of it. Troll pages started feeding on this because they were sitting cosily on an armchair and busy critiquing the government.
Meanwhile, our twitter brothers started long threads of how the BJP government fractured the whole economy and is not enabling safe transportation of migrants etc. It did not stop at this. They started trending various hashtags every day. It was so easy you see, to use 280 characters from their smart keypads and accuse the government and its system with direct references to Part 3 of the Constitution of India.
See that is where we all faltered. It was very easy to say fundamentals were not covered, this and that. It was even easier to Wiki something on Constitution of India and twistedly tweet it. What missed out from our own people was a quick self-assessment on our display of national character.
How many of them did a quick glance on Part IV A of our Constitution?
For those of us who are still scratching our heads, here is Part 1V A [Article 51 A] in the Constitution of India which reads:
They say tough times build character. When the Government asked us to stay inside homes, how many of us violated? When the liquor ban was lifted, how many of us behaved sheepishly without following social distancing? When the lockdown was being eased out, how many people violated the basic precautions every time? Every time the Govt eased out some regulation, the numbers would quickly soar, the green zone would rapidly become red. Seeing this, the Govt extended the lockdown, brought Shramik trains, started safe migration of workers. Here and there the planning definitely went haywire, we all know that. But, let’s say if we were to be PM of India for a day… would we be 100% perfect if a pandemic like Corona attacks our nation?
Let’s keep Modi aside, be it any PM, everyone would definitely make some errors here and there. Modi is no exception. To err is human. Some of them blame the government for poor healthcare and infrastructure. This comment of poor infra came from an NRI friend of mine. A brief stay in the US of A, makes him feel that the Indian Government is a chutiya. What about the USA now? We all know how much of drama came out of POTUS, the shouting matches at White House between media and Trump and not to forget his recent withdrawal from WHO.
Why drifting to USA, when we have better examples of our own citizens chutiyapa here right in India! One of my friends is a physician. We all know, how the lockdown has been very hard on self-employed, people facing entrepreneurs. Private doctors were the worst sufferers. This doctor friend of mine happened to start her clinic few weeks back and even though she keeps it open for just a few hours, she constantly battles the social distancing issue between sick patients. In spite of the loud announcements on media, it seems that people just don’t get it. The patients keep getting closer to each other and the doctor with all the right PPE [Personal Protection Equipment] feels scared to prolong her duty hours. Right from day one, crowd control is becoming a major issue. If educated citizens do not follow the social distancing and precautionary measures, what can we expect from illiterate folks? Today I read in a national daily, that instead of taking the scientific approach to prevent Corona, several groups of women in Assam and Chattisgarh are now worshipping Corona as an angry goddess. According to them, the goddess is angry and if they worship her, the chances of Corona Maatha leaving this country is very high.
Corona is a deadly pandemic. It has halted several nations and crippled economies across the world. There are hundreds of unsure circumstances that IAS, IPS officers across the nation are fighting. Crowd control, distribution of medicines to every nook and corner of the country, hospital management, vacant beds and ICU equipment replenishment… not one or two… Forefront workers are facing the worst nightmare of their lives. Nobody tweets about these. Instead all are indulging in the black sabbath of blaming the Government and defending their own interests.
It is very hard to control and satisfy the needs of ten members in a joint family. Imagine the onus on Govt to handle lakhs of casualties on a daily basis. What our neighbour China did, or Italy did should not affect us. Because we are a very diverse country with a democratic political system. Nobody can trust what China is publishing on its tactics of preventing Corona. Also, let’s not forget we are not a very disciplined crowd from ages. We pee where the signboard of “Yahan pishaap karna mana hain”, We spit where the signboard clearly says “No spitting”. We are still a country where online frauds are done by a 10th class drop-out and the victim is a graduate from Tier 1 college. Our degrees cannot be a yardstick to our common civil behaviour.
This lockdown did lock us down, but not the way India was locked down during 1975 – 1977 [Remember there was this thing called Emergency?]. Educate your neighbours that the unlock of lockdown is not a celebration. Its testing time for our national character. Let’s be responsible citizens and cooperate with the forefront workers aka the Corona warriors. This time not by pounding plates but by being a responsible citizen and not tweeting blatantly without fact-checking from our end.
Header Photo by Pedro Céu on Unsplash