Not a single expert said that total lockdown is the solution.

How do you read the meaning and significance of the 14-day lockdown in Guwahati metro? Who support the lockdown? The unthinking employees of the government sectors. Who  oppose the  lockdown? All the people who are in the unorganized sectors. And also those who work in the corporate sectors.

The unthinking people in the government sectors know that once their names are enrolled in some government departments or undertakings, they will continue to enjoy certain perks and periodic increase in their salary. That is the famously known “job security” of the government sectors though in the time of economic liberalization the ground has become little shaky even for them.

But, they should realize that government sectors are mostly depended on the unorganized sectors and partly on the corporate sectors. They are not inhabitants of some isolated islands. Better they realize this. They support the lockdown because they can shop for the goodies before the lockdown and stockpile the consumables, sit home idle and enjoy life leisurely criticizing the migrants for spreading the Coronavirus. These unthinking lot are staunch supporters of the government.

Who oppose the lockdown and why? Lockdown means closing of avenues for goods and services. The people in the unorganized and corporate sectors produce, distribute and retail the goods and services. Their earning is depended on it. Other things remain the same, in a normal situation they thrive, because that helps expand the volume of their activities. The abnormality of lockdown has affected this sector the most.

There is no point repeating the old stories of miseries faced by the people because of the nationwide lockdown. But whether we repeat them or not, or whether we speak them or not they are not going to go away. Those are not only the stories of misery of millions of people. Those are the realities for them. They are living them and they are in them. The shopping hordes may find them boring though.

Now let us comeback to the question asked at the beginning. Will this lockdown stop the spread of the Coronavirus? No, there is no guarantee if we go by the past experiences. It may only temporarily slowdown. Once the lockdown is withdrawn it may recur again. Do we remember the fanfare when there was no case or just a single case of Coronavirus virus in Assam?

How exciting were those days on building the defences of Coronavirus and the  responses of the gullible people! The plane hopping, flowers offering and the press conferences by the health minister! The insatiable appetite of our journalists to follow the health minister and attend his endless press conferences! There was no critiquing, no questioning, but only reporting the gospels of the minister.

What happened to those gospels now? During last few months how much did we hear from the virologists and epidemiologists and how much did we hear from the honourable minister? It is true that we are yet to know the exact nature of the virus. But, the virologists and epidemiologists have been making some important observations about the virus and how to cope with it.

No, the government didn’t pay any heed to what these experts have been saying about preparing ourselves to deal with this virus. Not a single expert said that total lockdown is the solution. The virologists and epidemiologists were no social scientists and economists. But they knew it like us, the common people that stopping the flow of economic activities would spell doom for millions of people in the country which may be more harmful than the effects of the virus. But the government didn’t pay any heed to it.

The experts, be it virologists or social scientists were of the opinion that any measure to combat the onslaught of the virus must be decentralized. They were also emphasizing on building a robust public health infrastructure to deal with such health emergencies. Kerala is a glaring example of that.

We should remember that among all the Indian states, Kerala has most successfully dealt with this virus. Again, they were insisting on conducting more tests and treating the disease. But, what we saw in the beginning of the pandemic were some grandiose events in the name of combating the virus. Again it becomes repetitious to mention the beating of the utensils and showering of flowers from the aircrafts. But, imagine they made people do all this as if the virus could be shooed away by these.

In Assam, after all these noises, another grandiose thing is planned for Guwahati now. They are closing the capital city for another two weeks. Again everything will come to a halt and a large section of people will face hardship. Is it that there was no other way to deal with the virus except calling for such drastic steps? Even now have they consulted any epidemiologists before taking this step?

In the prelude to the lockdown the people of Guwahati have been experiencing the spike of essential commodities, vegetables and other consumables. The moment lockdown was announced people started crowding the shops and market places.

The police administration is saying that they will enforce the lockdown more strictly this time. But has the civil administration done anything to help people get their supplies without facing hardship? There was absolutely no preparation before clamping the lockdown. Will it turn out to be another fiasco?

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Paresh Malakar

Paresh Malakar is a commentator based in Guwahati. He can be reached at: