Authorities should ensure people
have food to survive for 21 days
The total lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the country for 21 days is being implemented by the central and state authorities. The countrywide lockdown was considered absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The stringent measure has been taken as the dreaded virus was spreading fast all over the world and total lockdown was the most effective way to contain the disease in India that has killed over 19,000 people in the world. This is by far the longest ever shutdown that the country has perhaps observed since independence. India has so far recorded over 600 cases with 11 deaths attributed to the disease. With health experts warning of an explosion of infections if harsh steps are not taken, the government acted fast and the Prime Minister announced unprecedented measures that most in the country were witnessing for the first time in their lives.
The Union government has sought people’s cooperation with the invoking of the National Disaster Management Act to deal with the unprecedented situation in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Since there is no proven medical treatment for the disease, it would be in the interest of all that people cooperate with the authorities and stay indoors. Medical experts have warned that in view of limited medical facilities in the country and smaller number of intensive care units many people might not be able to get the needed medical support to survive if there is a larger outbreak of the disease in the country and the best way for survival of the ordeal is to prevent infection. With more and more cases being reported with every passing day in the country, the states were resorting to measures, like restrictions on movement of people, at their end which would not have helped in containing the spread of the disease and as such a country wide lockdown had become necessary. The central government moved in swiftly to ensure that a united battle was waged to fight the disease.
Even as the longest shutdown began in the country on Wednesday, concerns have been raised about essential supplies and services. Soon after the announcement lakhs of people rushed to buy the daily items needed to survive the three-week ordeal. While some managed to get a few things in some of the shops, others had to return empty handed as the supplies ran out. With there being no clarity on what could remain open many shopkeepers preferred to shut down their shops fearing police action. Most Goans however could not manage anything as Goa was already under lockdown till March 31 as announced by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, with shops ordered to be closed. The central government subsequently allowed fair price shops and those dealing with food, groceries, fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, animal fodder to remain open. The central government guidelines are not being implemented in Goa and those people who went by the guidelines had to pay a heavy price of being beaten up by the police.
As long-term measures have been announced, the authorities will have to ensure that they were implemented strictly on the ground. As three weeks is a long time for people, especially the daily wage earners and their families, to endure, the onus is on authorities to ensure that they do not become victims of starvation as they are least expected to have stockpiled the essentials. The authorities have announced that there were enough stocks of essential items but in view of total lockdown and ban on movement it would be difficult to access the food items for survival. It has to be noted that failure to provide food items could force people to violate the lockdown and in the process the fight to contain coronavirus could be lost. Besides, since many people have headed back home in crowded transport facilities there is possibility of them having contracted the disease during travel and passing on to their families. As such the authorities would have to deploy health workers all over to gather information of those with symptoms so as to prevent spread and mortality. The scrutiny should begin immediately before it is too late.