Reduced Relaxation in Curfew: A Threat of Resurgence of Virus? !! HimachalScape story

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Image used for indicative purpose only. Source Internet

As the third phase of the lockdown begins on May 4, the scare of Covid-19, coming back and hitting the state of Himachal Pradesh, is quite evident in the decisions of the state government. The reasons for such a fear flow from the recent decision of the state government to allow more than one lakh people to enter the state from various parts of the country. A total of 2,56,173 Himachal residents, either working in different parts of the country or are students, had applied for entry pass into the state. However, 53,674 permits were issued and almost an equal number, is believed to have entered the state through various borders, without a permit, till April 26th.

The government is aware of the fact that it was not able to screen all of them properly. The ‘home quarantine’ dictum is funny, if not ridiculous. Most of those who have returned to the state are from working-class families and to expect separate rooms and separate toilets in houses is a dream, not a reality. Many deputy commissioners in the districts, in their press conferences were focusing on the need for home quarantine not realizing that it is just not possible in a majority of cases.

The decision of the state government exhibits the fear of the spread of Covid-19. The government instead of adopting the ministry of home affairs formula in toto made amendments to it. Not to question their wisdom, but the economic activity that was supposed to boost does not seem to be the likelihood. For green zones(in HP six districts are in green and remaining six in the orange zone), the curfew relaxations were supposedly from 7 am to 7 pm, instead, the Himachal government has reduced the period from 12 hours to just five hours. Similarly, salons and barbershops are not allowed to open. The public transport is also not allowed in the state.

The government and private offices that will open will have to shut by afternoon. The entire exercise is to allow people to commute in their private cars instead of public transport. The government is not sure how it will ensure the presence of a large section of the working people who do not own a car. There are no arrangements for the transport of such people. Take for example in the state capital town of Shimla where most of the working people commute from adjoining peripherals like, Shoghi, Taradevi, Theog, Mashobra, Ganahatti, Dhami and even Solan. How will they commute to their offices in the given time frame; it is an impossible task.

Similarly, in most of the towns, especially the district headquarters, a large demand for vegetables and milk of the town population is met by the peripheral areas. These farmers were in distress for the last two months. The vegetable growers of Theog, Solan and Sirmour are forced to sell their vegetables at very less price or just throw it in the dung heap to convert it into fertilizer. Because they were not able to reach out to the towns, their vegetables were hardly sold in the market. Cauliflower was sold at a price of Rs 5 and now cherry is being sold at not more than Rs 30 a box. The same box would in previous years fetch a farmer more than Rs 125. It was believed that the state would be able to meet up this challenge and allow the freight of vegetables, fruits and other farmers produce. But the lockdown restrictions have shattered the hopes of the farmers.

The question is, why is it that the government not prepared to allow the relaxation period and is not allowing the economic activity in the state? The state government may boast and project these decisions(of restricting the activity) as a feature of greater caution, but the reality is that the government realises that there is a threat that looms large. The threat of sudden sprout of cases of Covid-19. The chief minister recently was rightly acclaimed for reaching out to almost all the houses of the state and creating a database of the people. But the recent entry of a large number of people is a real scare for the government.

Also, it is not a hidden fact, how well equipped the state is to meet the crisis, just in case the situation worsens. According to an expert in the health sector, the state will completely falter even if there are a few dozen cases. The reason cited is that the hospitals meant to deal with the Covid-19 patients, Tanda , Shimla and Mandi do not have sufficient gears/ PPEs(personal protective equipment’s). Despite repeated queries made by the media and other sections, the hospitals have not declared the total number of PPE kits available with them. On average, in a medical ward treating coronavirus patients, 8 PPE kits are required daily; however, if the number of patients are more then the required number is far more than that. For 15 days of treatment a minimum of 120 PPE kits and correspondingly a higher number will be required for the ICUs etc.

It will be complete chaos in case the number of patients rises and this the government knows pretty well. It was explained by a medical superintendent of a hospital, describing the situation as precarious. The MS said that even advanced countries are failing to meet up the crisis with the best gears in their command, hence the focus should be to avoid the spread of infection. The logic sounds good but also exhibits a hard fact that the state is completely failing to meet the requirements of PPEs.

The recent example of G B Pant Medical College in Delhi, AIIMS Delhi and a few medical colleges in Gujarat and other parts of the country clearly exhibit this reality. The reality of how scarce the resources are! The medical fraternity, for whom plates were banged, candles were lit and latest in the series was an orchestra, showering petals from the aircraft, all, but have fallen in vain. The medical fraternity has become one of the severest critiques of the present government in the country. They are screaming for the basic gears for they are the first ones to fall in case the pandemic is not contained in the country.

The state of government of Himachal Pradesh realizes this jolly well and hence, instead of enhancing the medical gears, has decided to restrict the movement of the people to guard the state from a resurgence of corona cases. What it has not realized is that the economic activity in the state has collapsed badly and soon the crisis for food and ration will deepen in the state.

Writer is the former deputy Mayor of Shimla. Views expressed are personal

2 COMMENTS

  1. Very righy observations.it is irony of fate that despite spending thousands of crores on Health Sectot.in last few years, we lack basic necessaties in the hospitals.

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