Anuj Kumar Verma
The whole world, today, is struggling hard to defeat an unknown and strange virus named Novel Corona or COVID19, which is highly contagious and can live between three to 24 hours on different surfaces. No cure has been found since it's spread over last three months. Developed countries like US, UK, Italy, Spain, France, Germany are helpless, despite of having excellent health infrastructure and a big Medical R&D network. This virus is proven to be more dangerous and fatal than other viruses in past like Mers, Sars, COVID9, Zika, Ebola, HIV, Encephalitis,
Malaria or Dengue. On record, death rate in COVID19 is lesser i.e. around 2.5 percent of total affected patients, but in few countries it has risen more than 20 percent. More than fourteen lac persons, all over world, are affected and nearly ninty thousand deaths have occurred due to COVID19. Many countries including India on this earth planet have resorted to total country lock downs as only option left out to save their people from this Pandemic. Japan has declared national emery. India, too, first went for one day Janta Curfew on 22nd March 2020 and than imposed 21 days nation wide lock down starting from 25th March 2020. This was not an easy decision for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but a major step involving number of complexities. The economies all over world are in shambles; millions of big & heavy Industries had to be shut down; loss of millions of jobs; share markets and oil prices going steep down; MSME units under threat of permanent closure. The governments all over the world are under state of shock.
Novel Corona knows no borders, no regions, no religions, no races and no continent. The virus is equally dangerous for common masses as well as those immensely rich or sitting in corridors of power. Scores of national and local politicians around the world are, today, infected with the virus.
Spanish Princess Maria Teresa of Bourbon-Parma has became the first royal to pass away due to Covid19. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on life supporting system in intensive care unit, after his condition with Corona virus symptoms worsened with a number of complications. Prince Charles is infected with COVID19. In Iran, at least a dozen current/ former officials, politicians, and religious figures have died after contracting the virus. Unable to cope with the stress over a broken economy of the country, 54 years old German Finance Minister Schaefer ended his life by committing suicide.
In New Delhi, a 35 years old patient tested positive of Covid-19 committed suicide by jumping of 7th floor of Safdarjung hospital building. Reports are coming from few other areas, too, where COVID19 positive patients committed suicide out of social boycott or isolation fear.
Doctors and health workers coming in close contacts with COVID19 positive patients while treating them, taking direct risk to their own as well as their family members' health, are also exposed to outrage of public. They, not only, suffer from shortage of PPE kits, COVID19 masks, hydroxyl Chloroquine, but also sometimes face pressure from their house owners to vacate their rented residential accommodation. Even the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of NCR Delhi had to issue warning to house owners in this regard. Hundreds of doctors and health workers have been infected with the virus and thousands, suspected of having infected, had to go for quarantine. We can well imagine the trauma, pain and fear psychosis, our doctors and health workers are passing through. Few days back, I saw heartening video of wife of a doctor in Jammu. The doctor is affected with COVID19 and simultaneously infected his father, wife and home servant. There was nobody left behind at his home to look after his old aged ailing mother. No doubt, authorities later made arrangements to look after infected doctor's mother. Despite of all this, doctors and health workers are performing their duties with full dedication. They have proven that indeed Medical is a noble profession and status of doctor, in a society, comes after the Almighty. Another fraternity, I would like to mention here, is municipal bodies' sweepers and sanitation workers who are also engaged in fogging/ sanitisation services despite of scarcity of the PPE kits, masks and hand gloves for them. Hats Off to them! They also are prone to stress, trauma and emotional break ups.
The Government of India has already invoked National Disaster Act and special powers are delegated to the District Collectors, all over country, to implement the 21 days lock down, where the country has put on full brakes in every sector except production and supply of essential commodities and services. The funds, earlier, earmarked for general infrastructure development, MPLAD funds, all, are diverted to PM Care or PM Relief Fund for fighting the Novel Corona. Efforts are being made for procurement & production of sufficient number of testing kits, ventilators, PPE kits, face masks, sanitizers, medicines and establishing thousands of isolation centres. Even, Indian Railways and Indian Army have also created a number of isolation centres with thousands of isolation beds facility.
Apart from this, multiple problems, before the administration, have been to do screening, quarantine and isolation of people with travel history outside & within country, suspected and COVID19 positive patients. A big tiresome, continuous exercise to trace people hiding their travel history had to be launched in all parts of India. Then, came a challenge to stop religious, fanatic people to attend to prayers in temples, gurdwaras, mosques and churches. Restrained use of force by the Police and Para Millitary Forced was inevitable to stop people visiting religious shrines despite a ban upon it. The Police had a tough time with few fanatics like Tablighi Jamaat or other Muslim community people, with travel history, who were adamant to go for quarantine and insisted for namaz prayer congregations in Mosques or Idgahs. Today, India, having more than 5000 COVID19 patients, has approximately 25% of its patients belonging to Tablighi Jamaat having attended a big conference at Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Nizamuddin Shrine New Delhi; Thousands of passengers had come from countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan & other countries to attend the conference at Tablighi Markaz in Delhi. Before, the police and civil administration could pursuade them to go for quarantine, thousands had fled and scattered in major cities of India, which gave a big philip to COVID19 patients taking the figure to more than 5000 with fear of India entering the 3rd stage of community transmission. The Police and civil administration had also tough time to control more than fifty thousand migrant labourers who gathered at Vasant Vihar Bus Terminal New Delhi demanding their travel back to their native villages in UP, MP and Bihar. Similar problem occurred in other states and Union Territories also. In J&K, the authorities acted swiftly in time and somehow stopped the migrant labourers' migration back to their native places by assuring and providing them with free ration items. It had been a great burden upon the authorities to feed and provide free ration to lacs of such families as are needy, poor and in distress out of funds provided by the government under SDRF as well as with help of philanthropic persons, charity organisations. The police personnel have been performing this duty very well apart from controlling people's unruly gatherings at banks, grocery, medical and vegetable shops guidind/discipling them to stay inside homes & maintain required social distance when coming out to buy essential commodities. They have been doing their duties, in this tough times, taking risk of getting infected with the virus. Reports are dropping in wherein fee police personnel have been infected or are suspected of infection; They are put into quarantine and isolation. Police personnel, nowadays, after completing their duties have to take umpteen precautions while going back to their homes. Nobody, among them, wants to get infected and pass infection to their dear ones at home. Similarity, the philanthropic persons, charity organisations and their volunteers have been also taking risk to their life while coming out to distribute ration & other items to families in distress. A number of charitable organisations have come forward to distribute cooked or dry ration, masks, sanitizers, toilet soaps to needy and poor. With their active participation to supplement relief measures launched by the government agencies, the administration has not only been able to feed millions of families in distress, who are without any saving or source of income but also successfully stopped the migration of migrant labourers to their native places to a greater extent. Volunteers of such charitable organisations are doing Yeoman's job; They also need appreciation and a word of honour, keeping in view the catastrophic and stressful situation in which they are working and taking equal risk of infection for themselves and their families. Likewise, bankers and essential commodities shopkeepers, ATM guards are also doing their job with full alertness and sense of responsibility, sharing equal risk of getting infected with the Novel Corona.
Another outfall of COVID19, which I would like to mention here is increasing incidents of domestic violence in India. First week of nationwide lockdown, which left many facing job losses, uncertainty over salaries, forced isolation and stressed households, resulted in a steep rise in violence against women. The National Commission for Women (NCW), which receives complaints from across the country, has recorded a more than two-fold rise in gender-based violence. The total complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March (March 2- 8), to 257 in the final week of March (March 23-April 1). Complaints of rape or attempted rape have risen sharply from two to 13, while cases of domestic violence have increased from 30 to 69 over the same comparative period. Simultaneously, there has been an almost threefold increase in police apathy towards women’s complaints with the NCW receiving 16 complaints on the issue as compared to six earlier, as the police are busy enforcing the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.