Corona crisis Catch ‘black sheep’ to save lives

Raman Suri

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent address to the nation had categorically said that ‘Lockdown has ended, but virus is still there’. This means that the situation continues to be the same as it was in March this year but the only difference that’s being felt is that majority people have been trained to safeguard themselves and adopt all precautionary measures against COVID-19 till a vaccine hits the market, for which Prime Minister has also laid down plans so that it reaches each and every person across length and breadth of the Nation within the shortest possible time span. In Jammu and Kashmir, the civil and police administration besides health authorities have all been handling the COVID19 situation quite efficiently ever since its inception. Every possible effort is being put in to contain the spread of virus and flatten the graph. Policies like mandatory COVID-19 testing and quarantine at the every entry point of J&K, like Lakhanpur, Airports and Railway Stations did help in controlling the spread of virus to a great extent in comparison to other parts of India. What makes one ponder is the rising caseload in recent weeks in J&K even after efficient measures being put in place. The answer lies in the fact that some people are still not taking precautions to safeguard themselves and likewise there are some ‘black sheep’ in the departments who are acting as catalysts to enhance the spread of virus which is not only criminal in nature but against all ethics and service rules. Arrest of two police personnel at Lakhanpur for issuing fake passes to people entering J&K is one such example of how casually some public servants are putting the lives of lakhs of people at risk just to serve their vested interests. Although one Police Inspector who was on duty at that particular point has been placed under suspension and two more cops have been identified for dereliction of duties and investigation in the matter has been ordered, yet no one knows how many COVID-19 patients have been let inside the UT by such personnel. Action against such ‘black sheep’, after their deeds were unveiled, shows alertness on part of government as well as administrative and police departments. Earlier hospitals too had become the target by such black sheep in the medical field, but after huge hue and cry and subsequent visits of Advisors, Chief Secretary and even Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha himself, things were put in order and oxygen supply which was not being monitored and was irregular was set right and many lives were saved. In another laxity, when zones were demarcated, an influential hotelier was allowed to escape from a critical and locked red zone to reach Srinagar. These favours against money or whatever reasons best known to violators have all acted as catalyst and made the number of COVID-19 positive cases swell from two digits to about 89 Lakh wherein around 1397 people have also lost their lives. Over 80 thousand people have recovered too, which again is an indicator of efficiency of administrators, doctors, police and all corona warriors, but the threat is still looming large over our heads with many people, including the ‘black sheep’ paying no heed to warnings, requests and advisories issued by Government from time to time. Taking a cue from this one can imagine how casually the gateways must have acted during past seven months only because of such elements. Their petty interests not only added to woes but so derailed the hardwork of efficient ones who have been putting in their best efforts to contain the spread of infection. It was alleged that several labourers had also escaped from Lakhanpur during past some time. At a time, when doctors, paramedics, police, administration and Government are doing their best, such incidents carried out by greedy people, both common man and men in service, reverse their efforts and add more burden on the health care system, thereby putting lives of common masses at risk. These culprits, even though a handful, are the ones who act as a disgrace and create loopholes in the working of graceful ones. Rapid and enhanced testing in schools, colleges, offices, markets and even residential localities by the Government authorities is a welcome step. Due to rising caseload and limited resources it is practically impossible to isolate every positive patient in hospital wards, thereby the authorities now are letting people opt for home isolation after getting tested positive. This provision has let to increase in the number of people getting themselves tested, who earlier used to conceal their symptoms. However, the whereabouts of patients are not known after they opt for home isolation. Many leave the UT for treatment, others isolate themselves indoors and a few report to hospitals. This is another laxity that is leading to the spread of virus. Need of the hour is that the authorities must keep a check on the positive cases, even if they opt for home isolation, so that they can properly follow the isolation procedures. A doctor should also accompany each testing team, and prescribe proper medication to the positive patients. Another issue that must concern Jammu and Kashmir is that while the European states, after unlocking, saw a second wave of COVID-19, we here are planning to open up everything with COVID-19 protocols staying only in books and orders with no one following them. School and colleges besides bars, restaurants and cinemas are going to open up soon. Social activities are going on with far less precautions and group photographs, without social distancing and masks, have become order of the day. People have started taking the virus casually. We must learn from others experiences and try not to open up everything in a single go. Knowing that Jammu and Kashmir is a Union Territory that is located in the northernmost part of the country and is locked from most sides, we must act vigilantly. Right from Lakhanpur to Uri, we have International Border, Line of Control (LoC) and Actual Line of Control (ALoC), that are all being guarded by valiant soldiers. This leaves Lakhanpur, Airports and Railway Stations as the only points to monitor influx of outsiders. Poor monitoring at these points means we ourselves are paving way for the spread of virus in this UT. Taking into account the coming festival season, we need to be extra cautious. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi too, acting as the head of family, had recently made an impassioned appeal to the people to follow COVID-19 guidelines properly, saying “this is not the time to be careless as the virus is still around and even a small negligence can dampen the festive spirit”. Citing examples of resurgence of infected cases in the US and several European countries, he too cautioned citizens against any carelessness until an effective cure is found. Back home in India, last week a bar in Hyderabad was sealed for flouting COVID-19 norms and a couple of days ago, a world famous silk store was sealed in Chennai for same reasons. Learning from all of these, the J&K UT administration must act accordingly and ensure opening of public places in phases. It must even sleep with one eye open, thereby ensuring timely and strict action against any laxity at any point. They must ensure proper sanitisation, bring in stringent rules for taking precautions and keep a check on the movement of people and business establishments, so that this festive season goes on with bliss and without chaos of COVID-19, hence reducing the caseload. Recently a school in Jammu was closed when its few staff members were found positive. Why should we lose lives and then act? Its high time that Lieutenant Governor calls a high level meeting to identify various essential and nonessential services and then decide on how and when will they stay open and for how many days in a week. This will lessen the movement of people on roads and offices and also lessen the chances of spread of virus. The social activities must also be contained which are going on unabatedly and without any precautions. Many people have either stopped following precautions like wearing masks or have become negligent in Jammu and Kashmir. These people are putting themselves and their families, including children and elderly, at risk. Its high time that we learn from others experiences and save our families. Jammu has lost many precious souls and being a small city, we can feel the impact of loss of lives on each and every family. There is no point of learning by losing. Government as well as private players and common people, all put together must act wisely and after discussing with government, decide how, when and what will remain open and closed. (The author is Executive Member BJP J&K) feedbackexcelsior@gmai