An FIR lodged by one Tarun Dutta alleged that minister Pijush Hazarika flouted social distancing norms.

The war against a pandemic of an unprecedented kind in modern memory refuses to end. India is one of the worst-hit nations, a worrying truth we cannot ignore.

A sizeable percentage of our population is roaming the streets without wearing masks while remaining indifferent to the need for social distancing. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that experts have been pointing towards the need for greater caution.’

That said, there are times when people are unable to maintain social distancing because of a lack of options.

A few days ago, a video showing a crowded suburban train in Mumbai triggered a debate on social media. The video that went viral shows people wearing masks attempting to board the train.

The sight is a cause for worry since Mumbai continues to struggle to contain the novel coronavirus.  A second video showing a compartment reserved for women filled with passengers does not reflect any regard for social distancing either.

Western Railways responded on its official twitter handle by saying that the clips were from September 23  when there was heavy rainfall. Many trains got cancelled that day. As a result, there was crowding in the trains that were operational that day.

Faced with a lack of options for transport, people who struggled to board these trains cannot be blamed. That such crowding can enhance the possibility of more infections cannot be ruled out either.

Constructive steps must be taken to ensure that the impact of the much-dreaded virus is kept under control.  A few days ago, Assam’s Health and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma reportedly informed that an app (visitassam.org) has been launched to prevent overcrowding at the airports.

“The crowding for filling up forms leads to problems in maintaining social distancing. This newly-launched app will have all the forms that need to be filled up at the airport,”  he reportedly said. What is a matter of concern, however, is that the airport is just one of the places where overcrowding is possible.

The commoner has been guilty of violating social distancing norms while stepping out to buy essentials, or going to work, or chatting with friends while standing one foot away from each other with masks off their faces.

Politicians have been setting terrible examples, too, as they did during the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) election meeting organised at Tamulpur area in Baksa district. During the meeting reportedly attended by Assam’s junior health minister Pijush Hazarika and a few other BJP leaders, people sat close to each other as seen in a video that has gone viral on social media. Most of them were not even wearing masks, which is appalling.

After this happened, an FIR lodged by one Tarun Dutta alleged that the minister flouted social distancing norms at a time when the state was facing a difficult situation due to the pandemic.

We need to act much more responsibly if COVID-19 has to be kept under control. The average person trying hard is an occasional failure because of unavoidable circumstances that he/she must face.

Others violating these norms because they don’t take them seriously constitute the bigger reason for worry. When will they change? Or, the still more important question is, will they?

Biswadeep Ghosh

Biswadeep Ghosh is an author and freelance journalist. He has been a part of the India media for three decades. Among his books is MSD: The Man The Leader, the bestselling biography of cricketer MS Dhoni....