Representational image.

With the break of Tuesday, the nation embarks upon one week of the 21-day nation-wide lockdown announced by the Centre. Despite a thousand appeals from various quarters, including the Union government and the state government, on a daily basis to the people to stay at home, a vast section of the people of Assam have proved to be contemptibly notorious in breaking the rules of lockdown.

The lockdown in force in India demand of the people to stay at home to decelerate the spread of Covid-19 to make the country free of the dreaded virus. While the lockdown is as good as a curfew, the people are allowed to go out of home to the nearest grocery shop(s) to procure necessary food items, or to buy medicine at pharmacies and also to avail medical service at medical centres and other emergencies.

Accordingly, the Assam government has set up or allowed the functioning of regulated vegetable centres in several areas of the state. Such vegetable points have also come up in several localities in Guwahati. Unfortunately, a large section of people of Assam have apparently taken to treating these concessions granted as licence to violate the lockdown in the most rampageous manner.

Likewise, defying the lockdown with contemptuous disregard, vendors in several places across the state openly set up make-shift markets on roadsides or other open space, while buyers in thousands indulge in reducing the lockdown to a silly joke.

While a pandemonium-like scenario emerges in such illegal make-shift markets, the most vital requirement of social distancing in the fight against Covid-19 is belittled to a laughable stock.

To keep the lockdown in place, on several occasions the police have to resort to baton-charge or even fire in the air to disperse the unruly mobs. Instances of transportation of country liquor and sale of the same under the garb of sale of essential food items have also come to light. Further, a sizable section of unruly youth comes on to the streets simply to create a picnic-like atmosphere amidst the lockdown.

While the lockdown is the most powerful weapon in the fight against the deadly virus, through their violations these unruly and notorious elements have proved to be a huge threat to the very survival issue of the population of the state and the country. Perhaps the right term to describe these violators of the lockdown may be ‘anti-national’ or even ‘enemy of the general public’.

Meanwhile, despite tough actions by the police to keep the lockout in place, there seems to be no end to the notoriety indulged in by a sizable section of the people of Assam. In the interest of turning the Covid-19 threat into a thing of the past, the conscious circle is of the view that the police action needs to be a lot more harsh, nay, draconian against the lockdown violators if the nation is to be saved from the killer disease.

While in some states in mainland India thousands of homeless and shelterless migrant workers have been forced to come on to the streets in their attempt to return to their home states, such a situation is almost non-existent or at best at an extremely minimal level in Assam.

While during the first couple of days or so of the lockdown there appeared to be some hic-cups in the essential food item supply line, as of now the government authorities have to a large extent streamlined the same and further improvement seems to be on the anvil.

Again, while on the first two days or so some unscrupulous retailers/traders took advantage of the situation and raised the price of some essential food items, the state government has seemingly brought the situation almost under control.

As per certain sources, one area where the authorities need to pay a little extra attention pertains to the pharmacy sector. Allegations are also making the rounds that some (not all) pharmacists/pharmacy owners are charging exorbitant rates for services rendered like checking blood pressure or other such services.

On the one hand, they aver that they cannot touch anybody as social distance has to be maintained, while on the other they allegedly charge inflated rates on the ground that costly equipment or other materials have to procured even to touch a person to check blood pressure. One only hopes that the government streamlines the process and in turn protects the common man from being exploited.

On the other hand, the way vegetable and essential food items are being made available on a locality-wise basis, the Assam government may also arrange for door-to-door medical check-up as was done in Wuhan and some other areas in China worst hit by Covid-19 while an almost ruthless lockdown sans any concession was in place.

Again, in contrast to the rampageous lockdown violators, very high appreciation need to be made of various organizations who are rendering yeoman service to poor, needy and even shelterless people by way of distributing prepared food or food items in the state.

While several NGOs, civil society bodies and religious organizations are working overnight to make cooked food or food items ready for distribution among the needy, Assam Police personnel are actively involved in the novel process of making the stuff reach the deserving people. Such humanitarian service rendered, no matter in how limited a way, drives home the gravity of the crisis caused by the threat of Covid-19 in Assam.

Be that as it may, as of now the Assam government appears to be according topmost priority towards confronting Covid-19 squarely and effectively if and when the killer virus makes its appearance in the state.

At this juncture it may be stated that no Corona positive case has so far been reported from any part of Assam. It is also thought by many that the Corona scenario may remain the same till the lockdown or an extended lockout remains in place.

However, considering the world as well as the national landscape on the Covid-19 front, the general view is that sooner or later the dreaded virus may certainly make inroads into Assam from outside the state, particularly in the post lockdown stage.

Further, the massive infrastructure that is apparently in the process of being built on a war footing in Assam despite the state being still sans any Corona positive case, makes an analyst feel that the state government could be anticipating a Covid-19 epidemic if not a pandemic.

Meanwhile, the dos and don’ts as laid down by the state and central government in their advisories may to a very large extent help in checking the spread of the deadly virus if followed in letter and spirit by the people.

Unfortunately, as stated above, a sizable section of unruly elements, almost anti-national in deeds, may pose a huge threat to all measures initiated by the government and other agencies and bodies against Covid-19.

If only that section of the population of the state notorious for violating the lockdown refrain from indulging in anti-people deeds and stay at home and maintain social distancing, Assam may come out at the end of the day, whenever that situation may emerge, with flying colours.

As pointed out already, that section of the people notorious for their misdeeds of disturbing the lockdown, are not of the kind who may give heed to any sane advice or request. They are the lot who can only be treated with brute physical force. Hence, the need of the hour for the police and other men in uniform is to come down on such people almost with brutal force to save the nation.

Mere beating up of such people, even if it be ruthless beating, by the police may not lead to any positive result in some cases. Hence, to instill an element of fear and deterrence among such violators of lockdown or any other measures initiated in the fight against the killer virus, besides bashing up such people black and blue it may be appropriate to send them to jail for long terms. Perhaps it is time for the Assam government to revisit its strategy against the unruly and rowdy elements of the state while fighting headlong against Covid-19.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com