Plan to exit ‘Lockdown’ or ‘Self Destruction’? – Things we must not ignore

The way in which the word corona has been terrifying the World, the only cure that has come to everyone’s mind is a lockdown. As has been in the case of earlier epidemics, no pre-planned long-term preventive measures could be taken in this time of crisis too. It has ultimately led the whole world to the stage of lockdown subsequently.

The overwhelming urge to use lockdown as the only weapon in the war has increased manifold as vaccines or antidote are yet to be found to cure COVID-19. To confine ourselves into our homes and thereby avoid catching the deadly virus can, therefore, be considered a sane move. But it also faces us with several questions. How long will we be able to sustain the lockdown? What about other consequences even if we get away with corona? How will we cope with the problems that evolve with us staying back inside our homes? Will India be able to sustain the lockdown for as long as a developed country like the USA or UK?

Lockdown has been in place for more than a month now. The chaos and difficulties faced in this period have given a clear picture of how difficult the situations will be in case there is a further extension of lockdown. The extent of damage is directly proportional to the resources and infrastructures one country has. It is, therefore, necessary to devise our own strategy for extending the lockdown instead of following others.

The Indirect damage of Coronavirus is far-fetching:

It has been noticed that more than the casualties of this epidemic the consequences of the lockdown have been more severe on us. There was absolutely no alternative to prevent the spread of the virus, but we have got enough time to analyze the lockdown process. It is therefore important for a country like us to implement the next phase of lockdown, if needed, keeping in mind it’s side effects. Being confined to our homes is not the answer to survival as there are many enemies against us apart from the corona. We can not fight against them by simply staying at home.

Difficult situations created by lockdown have already taken away many lives, unfortunately. This type of situation will arise with the extension of lockdown without an iota of down. Damage of crops and vegetables in the fields and farms is a huge setback for farmers, consumers, and the Government for a state like Assam. Since both harvesting and cropping activities have been in impact badly it will lead to a shortage of food or maybe famine in the future. The shortage of food will amplify with an increase in the duration of lockdown. The economic crisis will loom parallel to it. It will be felt across society. But the economically weaker section will face the pain first since they have a close to nothing in savings. A major part of India’s workforce is already getting their sources of income as the culture of work from home is still a distant dream here.

Similar kinds of uncertainty have gripped other sectors too. All these factors have forced us to foray into an unknown territory which no one had even imagined. This graph of uncertainty will only rise rapidly with the extension of lockdown. One cannot envisage the quantum of damage it can cause. We should not also forget the recurring problem of flood in our own state, Assam. Rampaging flood will soon hit several states hard starting from the month of May beside the existing epidemic. It will be a Herculean task to combat these two calamities together. Extending lockdown in this challenging time will make these problems almost unconquerable.

However, removing the lockdown at once will be murderous as the epidemic has already reached a devastating stage. Getting engaged in our work systematically by maintaining strict social distancing protocols will be a better option and the first step towards it would be ending the enforced house arrest. People should be allowed to go to their workplaces and at the same time be encouraged to practice social distancing as well as preventive measures rigorously.

Here are some key measures we can take it to ease out of the lockdown to re-ignite the economy, yet maintaining all safety measures:

1) Use of Armed Forces, to ensure discipline and strict monitoring of rules while allowing to open business and economy:

During this lockdown, it’s been seen that the corrupt image of police is changed to an extent and established it as a virtuous and serving force. Their tireless effort of the policemen during this period has proved that they are very much able to control this type of situation. Therefore, the govt can use this goodwill as the main weapon to fight against the virus. This is where our Armed forces can come in handy as well. Our country has a very strong and vast force of Army personnel, – with approximately 1.2 Million Active and close to 1 Million Army personnel in reserve. Add the number of CRPF personnel and other para-military forces and we have a huge force we can boast on. In fact, the armed forces are trained very well to face such types of challenges for the country. We may see a light of hope if the govt takes such a step.

A new ‘Unified Command structure’ where Armed Forces and Civil Authorities work collaboratively: Assam already has the experience of the ‘Unified Command Structure’ since 1996, where operations against militants are run jointly by Army, Police, CRPF, etc. This can very well be improvised to form a new Command System and create a standardized approach of command, control, and coordination of emergency response providing a common hierarchy within multiple agencies including both civil authorities as well as Defense. If the Indian government can implement something like the ‘Unified Command structure’ to ease the social distancing issue, which means if all the forces of police, Army and paramilitary personnel can look after the part of maintaining discipline and social distancing in public places, a lot of establishments, business and trade can be opened for sure.

Strict sealing of Containment or Red Zones through Army deployment: Though most People have surely understood the magnitude of the problem after spending more than a month in lockdown and awareness about social distancing or immunity enhancement has also grown considerably, Still instances of violation of guidelines due to negligence and ignorance are surfacing and it will continue in the future too. But with the Armed forces maintaining the strict vigil amongst the public, sealing the containment zone, red zones, etc will open the economy for sure. Rewards and punishments wherever applicable can be an addition to it. People have been already terrified by the onslaught of the corona. This sense of panic and fear of discipline enforcement by Armed forces will also keep them alarmed about the rules and guidelines which will minimize the challenge to the administration. Voluntary efforts of conscious and cooperative citizens will be extremely helpful to the administrative forces here.

The point is, this nationwide situation is no less than war and the support of the Armed forces can not be taken now – then when?

2) Hospitals, including Private Nursing Home to have separate wards for each disease variety

Not just isolation wards for Corina patients lets ensure nobody mixes up with others while coming to a hospital at all. Neurology, Cardiology, Maternity, Infection, etc diseases – all can have separate wards in the hospitals, and that way containment and quarantine are easy as needed. That way hospitals can open, instead of shutting doors to everyone (Except those in an emergency).

3) Continue to Supply Vegetables at doorsteps and local wards, helping the rural farmers and hence the economy

As seen in the lockdown period, the government can continue to ensure the supply of fruits and vegetables in doorsteps and local areas. This will ensure people do not venture out of crowded markets at all. However, while doing so, the Government must ensure that they purchase from the local farmers or bodies directly, i.e. from sources in rural areas. In the current scenario, goods and materials of essentials are coming via trains and trucks from outside states, which is helping the large business lobbies. But the rural farmers and producers are finding no ways to sell their produce in the lockdown! No brokers or middlemen to be encouraged here and priority has to be given to local farmers, cultivators, and producers. Only then a win-win situation can be ensured.

4) Legal Matters and Government Offices– Open up but priority setting is important

The courts should open to the priority matters and maintaining strict distancing norms. Matters such as petty civil matters, petty crimes can be deferred to future dates. Similarly, the Govt offices to resume with social distancing strictly enforced so that the state machinery does not collapse. If needed, government officials can split into multiple staggered shifts (working across the week).

5) Stop Communalism, racial discrimination, and hatred

Communalism and racial discrimination must be stopped at any cost. We are already seeing a surge in a communal blame game. Likewise, our brothers and sisters from North-Eastern states are being attacked, lynched, and humiliated in other states of India, accusing as “Chinese”! This must be stopped or else we all risk seeing a new advent of terrorism or militant attacks in the future.

We are in it together, with hope and determination: While the Vaccines and treatments seem to be at least several months away, as a ray of hope, Singapore University predicts that by end of May, the Covid-19 pandemic may move towards its decline. While we can only hope and maintain all regulations and guidelines by the authorities, we hope that the Government will take the right steps. The steps needed are not just direct protection from Coronavirus, but holistic measures to ensure the functioning of the economy, livelihood, and progress of the society and nation.

Since we have all collectively known about the pattern of corona’s spread, preventive measures, etc during the lockdown period we are now better equipped to fight against it. It can be said that safety measures are enough to avoid getting infected by corona rather than a complete lockdown. If still there is the emergence of virus spread cases after taking all safety measures, then can it be classified as a trivial issue.

We also must accept the fact that there are still many people who do not give a damn about civic duties let alone be keeping themselves away from peril. Consumption of tobacco even after knowing its consequences is just an example. That is why it is the right time to face this crisis in a much smarter way then amassing many more problems by simply keeping ourselves locked down in our homes being apprehensive of illogical behavior of a few people.

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