Covid situation: Show compassion and empathy

Allow to board the train only on production of negative test report

K B Jandial

This has reference to Avtar Bhat’s report “Quarantined people resent lack of adequate facilities” (DE May17). It was an extensive report that exposes many chinks in the arrangements at Administrative Quarantine Centres and testing capacity of Jammu’s health institutions. While the administration is right to defend its arrangements but there is an old adage-‘it is the wearer who knows where it pinches’. So, those who were huddled into quarantine centres have the first hand taste of things as unraveled by DE and they would not be able to forget this ordeal throughout their lives, especially by the senior citizens, former civil servants and the families with small children.
Certain aspects of the ordeal, the first group of about 1100 passengers of Special New Delhi Rajdhani had experienced on arrival at Jammu Railway station on 15th May had escaped the attention of your correspondent. First shocker to these home-coming travellers was that they would have to stay at their seats for test for coronavirus. It took nearly two three hours. The second shocker was that they would be administratively quarantined till the receipts of reports of their tests. Then there was announcement for making queues for boarding buses- 50 huddled into each bus well publicized social distancing norms notwithstanding. The home-comers were literally taken on Jammu darshan- one quarantine centre to another as nobody had information of the space available for the new entrants in which centre. At least this coordination could have been ensured as everyone nowadays is equipped with a mobile.
I wish to flag some suggestions for the consideration of the administration. In the first place, the Railways should notify that the passengers would be allowed to board the train only on production of negative test report from authorised centres. If it is done the people would be saved from further test on arrival at Jammu and the ordeal of quarantine centres. Even if tests have necessarily been done at Jammu, home quarantine is still the best option in given circumstances, at least better than huddling them in to unhygienic Quarantine centres. Their mobile number and addresses could be taken and action may follow on the receipt of results. This will also save the Govt of unnecessary expenditure of boarding and lodging of quarantined persons and overburdening of testing centres which have limited capacity. Secondly, the passengers heading for certain destinations like Jammu should be told in advance that they would be subjected to test and quarantine for three or four days. This will help the potential travellers to make up their mind to travel or not. Thirdly, as alternate facility of paid quarantine in certain hotels has been put in place in Jammu, what is the harm in formally notifying it right at Railway Station or linked with IRCTC for advance booking. Fourthly, if 50 persons in a bus is the norm then the administration is risking their lives. Why not passengers be allowed to send for their private transport?
While there is no doubt that the Modi Govt and the local administration are, by and large, handling the pandemic COVID-19 with commitment and dedication that needed to be applauded but there is always some scope for improvement. The UT Administration must inculcate a spirit of compassion and empathy coupled with commonsense in officials at the cutting edge. Two instances, I wish to narrate here. In this pandemic COVID-19 situation when lot of restrictions are in place, where is the priority for the traffic police to rough up motorists for not wearing car belts? The real service would be if they ensure that every motorist or companions in the vehicle wearing marks and carry sanitizers. Rough them if ever necessary, for such deficiencies in the present situation. Another despicable police action is the rounding up mask bearing morning walkers and briefly detained at Gandhinagar Police Station. The harassed morning walkers include many senior citizens and retired senior officers and their spouses. There is no evidence that the coronavirus is in the air and the people for the health conditions or to distress from staying home for 50 days do need some physical activity. Such people who, in any case, are not rioters, arsonists, suicide bombers or militants needed to be handled with some compassion and empathy. The DM and other authorities need to take call on these matters.
The author is IAS (Retd)