With slew of administrative measures announced, the current bureaucratic dispensation led by the Hon’ble Lt. Governor, which is at the helm of affairs in the newly carved out Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, seems to be ghastly preparing for the global pandemic which originated in Wuhan, China.
The Covid-19 virus, or popularly known as Corona Virus, has already crossed into India with 425 confirmed cases (as on date) across the peninsula ensuing implementation of precautionary measures of exemplary nature.
Even though the outbreak of diseases having terminal implications at a very large scale cannot be attributed to one specific negligent act or deliration, its prevention and or subsequent control is not only possible but very much practical in nature.
Primarily, the prevention and control of an epidemic is the first and foremost concern of a welfare state, however, it is the government machinery i.e. the executive organ of state which spearheads the action against epidemics. The steel frame of India has been vested with ample powers and provisions to prevent or tackle disasters and mitigate effects subsequently.
The invocation of Epidemic Disease Act and Disaster Management Act by the central government and its implementation by many other states has already confined millions of people to homes and drastically brought the life to a grinding halt with the sole intention of preventing large social gatherings in order to minimize the risk of spread of disease.
However, the durability of the steel frame is yet to be tested and in many cases has failed to prove its mettle. A lucid example is that of the hoarding of masks and sanitizers which assumed such catastrophic levels that both the commodities were included in the schedule of essential commodities and a cap on market pricing was also put into effect by the central government.
The guidelines issued by the W.H.O laid emphasis on clean hands and proper covering around the face in case of symptoms of flu and the guideline had used “hand sanitizers” and “masks” for indicative purposes only.
But the vague propagation of the words “hand sanitizer” and “masks” by the government machinery acted as a misinformation and resulted into a shortage of both the items increasing the risk manifolds, while as the fact remains that any common soap is as much effective as a “hand-sanitizer”.
The next point of concern is the miraculous escape of many positive cases from the screening centers established at airports, bus-stands and railways (if at all) which is also related with the disappearances of suspects from isolation wards and their subsequent apprehension by the authorities.
If the non-cooperative and negligent attitude shown by the suspects and positive cases of Covid-19 are to be blamed for instilling fear and confusion in common masses, the role of negligent staff and personnel’s deputed also cannot be ruled out.
The national clerical currency “chai” (tea) has an undeniable role in lambasting even meticulous schemes and plans while as these steps are temporary in nature. The only positive case in Kashmir also ignited a heated debate over VIP Culture, which is another termite to the steel frame.
Apparently, the positive case is a close relative of a top bureaucrat in the valley and as soon as it was disclosed, the cry for unbiased screening and inquiry into the dereliction of duty intensified. The truth, however yet remains to be uncovered.
The incidences wherein many people managed to reach into the valley through alternate routes and by-passing the robust mechanism put in place by the authorities undoubtedly revealed the criminal and anti-social nature of such persons, but it cannot be denied that the ill-equipped and unhealthy conditions of isolation wards is a major contributory factor in a citizens disbelief and rebellion towards the robust mechanism put in place by the authorities.
Even though the authorities have been time and again asking people to disclose their respective travel history in order to adopt a better management and perspective in case the patient turns out be a positive one, the reluctance is somewhat the result of administrative malpractice which has imprinted the brains of citizens in the recent months of lockdown, more so the way it unfolded. An administration devoid of trust cannot expect an honest reply or disclosure from people.
Even then, the administration has resources at its disposal, which if utilized properly can work wonders in the current scenario. Any person showing flu like symptoms when admitted in a hospital can be asked to provide Aadhar number and same could be checked in the database of Ministry of External Affairs for any recent travel history particularly to such places which are the epicenter of this outbreak.
Recently, a women returning from a pilgrimage was admitted to congested hospital in Anantnag without revealing the travel history, it was only after a doctor, who also happened to be a relative of the suspect, revealed that the lady had a recent trip to Middle East, the administration was alerted and lady was shifted to an isolation ward.
Luckily, the suspect tested negative and a major catastrophe was averted but things cannot be left to chance next time. The dispensation is required to devise and adopt mechanism keeping in view the situation at hand and as it unfolds. It cannot hide failures under the garb of absence of ideal situation or presence of uneducated literates.
Epidemics are not a new phenomenon; on the contrary history offers many such instances wherein millions of lives were lost to an outbreak of disease which travelled alongwith traders or soldiers to far off corners before the word of caution could reach any of such corners, and by the time it reached the outbreak would assume an uncontrollable magnitude.
As science made strides in the field of medicine research and communication technology, words like “epidemic” and “incurable disease” assumed the status of relic until Wuhan city began to report hundreds of deaths in a single day in December, 2019 due to deadly and relatively unknown virus.
While as the virologist and other medicinal experts are working relentlessly to find a cure to this disease, it is high time that social doctors, the steel frame of nation, also finds their calling and they also emerge with novel methods to deal with the “in-ideal public” in these tough times.