Back to Life: Everyone's had it with lockdown. What follows, next?
Frustrated with people refusing to comply with lockdown rules, the police in Mumbai came up with a novel solution last week. They performed ‘aarti’ on those out for a morning walk, while singing “Om Jai Jagdish Hare”. The video, which has been viewed over 80,000 times on Twitter, shows a few men wearing masks and keds, shamefacedly looking down, while police sang the hymn. Citizens across India have repeatedly been asked to exit their houses, only to buy essentials.
It has been a long and difficult month and while it’s nearing the end, there’s still no clarity on who’ll be allowed to go where: come May 3, 2020.
What’s clear is, it’s going to be near impossible to restrict millions from going about their daily routine if this lockdown gets extended again. No one is doubting the epidemiologists who recommended self isolation measures as the only solution to stop the spread of the deadly COVID-19. At the same time, it must be acknowledged, people everywhere in the world are finding it extremely difficult to quarantine this completely, and so endlessly.
For example, in a village in Indonesia, where legends of ghosts abound, the government deployed volunteers who dressed as mysterious white figures to pounce on and scare unsuspecting strollers, into hurrying inside. Their unique plan, to employ superstition and keep folk indoors, backfired — people were curious to catch a glimpse of the scary creatures and instead, descended on the streets in large numbers. Americans, too, have protested for the right to go back to work. Schools in many European countries have reopened as have small restaurants in Austria, even though the coronavirus is far from over.
World over, lockdowns have created discord, spurring regular folk into vigilante actions against each other. In apartment complexes in Gurugram, residents stepping out without reason are shamed on the RWA WhatsApp groups. Neighbours aren’t permitted to meet each other. There is a public shaming frenzy on social media, post the invention of the term ‘covidiot’ on Urban Dictionary, that refers to someone who ignores the warnings for public health and safety. Obviously, new social distancing rules have to be in place permanently. But it is worth asking how is someone going for a morning run for half an hour, masked, and on the road in the open, without touching anyone or anything, a risk to society?
In an interview, Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto, pointed out that India leads the world in road fatalities for biking helmetless. But these days the police are caning people for stepping out to stretch their legs. Dispense with gatherings in parks, sure, but by not allowing residents out for a little exercise, one has to wonder, if this kind of response isn’t disproportionate for a majority of the population.
Just like how India Inc is planning a careful exit strategy from the lockdown with an aim to normalise economic activity while preventing Covid from spreading, similarly, there needs to be a plan that permits people to move around legally, while following the rules of social distancing. Ultimately people will have to take responsibility for themselves if they want to avoid getting ill. It shouldn’t be so difficult since, to begin, there’s going to be no parties, no pubbing, no movies, no shopping, no galleries and no music festivals. We are in this together, alone.
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