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While it remains the fact that the nation-wide lockdown should have been implemented much much earlier than late March by awarding a week-long window for the migrants to return home if they wished and ensuring necessary medical infrastructure to fight Covid and sustenance for the poor labourers to be rendered jobless which could have minimised Covid-related deaths and that of migrants returning home by walking several hundred miles to significant extent; but there lies no doubt to the fact that lockdown was definitely essential. This would comparatively reduce the rate of infection and deaths providing a bit of time and space for the concerned authorities to prepare necessary medical infrastructure as much as possible right from PPEs masks test kits to quarantine centres.
But also lockdown cannot continue endlessly specially in a poor country like us. Else to save oneself from virus, he/she would die of hunger!
So phase by phase relaxation of lockdown and ultimately lifting of it is inevitable.
But it is indeed amusing but dreadful to witness the action and mindset of common public.
During the third working week of March ie from 16th to 20th and obviously few days before implementation of lockdown, the ever-busy Kolkata was fast turning to be a “ghost city”! Throughout the year, it requires lot of acrobatic skills and stamina to get into any coach of local trains in and around Kolkata specially during office hours. But to my utter amazement, getting into the railway coach seemed like a relaxed stroll in park in that 3rd week of March! Same within Metro Railway network! Central Kolkata, teeming with people at all hours, resembled “bandh” days in even early evening! The shops in the traditional British-era “New Market” were almost empty of customers!
And after the lockdown came into effect, non-market areas remained almost desolate and in front of milk booths or groceries, people used to meticulously stand in queues maintaining safe distance from each other with masks religiously placed upon face! And the overall environment was so tensed that people venturing out for procuring essentials used to start treating each other as “pariah” ie diverting their walking route if possible so as to evade the person found to be approaching from opposite direction!
The picture remained the same till end of lockdown-II. But as lockdown-III started with lot of relaxations, I found people also to turn relaxed in attitude and now it is almost “free for all” though lockdown-IV is yet to end officially!
Now people are least perturbed while standing in close proximity with each other as in pre-Covid days and competing for milks vegetables or groceries in market! Even if a semblance of queue remains in few places, hardly any distance is getting maintained! Some have started discarding masks all together with many treating those as “Olympic medals” to be dangling near the neck! Gossiping in parks Street corners casually have already started with such scenes to become more common in upcoming days as the lockdown will come to end or even if lockdown-V starts!
With relaxation of strong measures, it is obvious that human activities would increase; but how can people act so irresponsibly casually callously! Yes, lockdown may end or turn more and more relaxed for practical economic reasons; but isn’t it the fact that as far as number of infections and deaths are concerned, Indian picture has deteriorated to great extent than pre-lockdown weeks or lockdown I to III ! Does relaxation in various sectors mean decrease of threats of viral infection and fatalities or eradication of Corona!
It is high time people of the country continue to maintain all sorts of safety protocols for themselves, their families, neighbours and larger society as in earlier days of lockdown; else India should get ready to brace very very alarming days in near future.
Kajal Chatterjee, Kolkata
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