By ANSHUMAN BHARGAVA :
There is still time to mend our ways and save ourselves from further escalation of the infection. The Health Minister has rightly said that festivals don’t naturally mean huge gatherings and God can be prayed even in isolation or at homes.
Given the initial strictness with which PM Narendra Modi had implemented the lockdown in the country, we were supposed to do much better than what we have done. We have done well but responsible social behaviour would have kept things in better control.
UNION Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has recently issued a very progressive and relevant statement regarding the festivities in the wake of the corona. “There is no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or your religion. You can pray to your Gods at your homes. I would suggest that all of you celebrate festivals with your families,” he said, pointing to coronavirus which is still on the rampage. The country has crossed the 70-lakh mark in the overall number of COVID cases and stands slightly behind the US, which is the worst sufferer, logging more than 76 lakh cases.
The festive season is around the corner and a large congregation of people is a common scene during our celebrations. With Durga Puja, Dussehra, Diwali and Chhath Puja around the corner, there is concern about COVID numbers spiking as people drop the use of all safety norms in the enthusiasm of the celebratory mood. On October 6, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had told the media that there had been a “huge spike in cases in Kerala for several days and a lot of it has to do with the Onam festivities”. Large gatherings have already started. A shopping rush has been seen in West Bengal, and Kolkata’s key market areas show huge crowd surge even as many people have ditched the mask. Ahead of Diwali, a similar situation is likely to play out in Delhi and the rest of north India as well, which has the potential to spike the cases in a big way.
“If we are careless in following coronavirus safety norms while celebrating festivals, the COVID-19 situation in the country will again worsen, and can create massive problems for us,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said in his weekly video address. “No religious leaders of any religion say that festivals should be celebrated by putting lives in danger. No Gods say, you need to go to big pandals to pray. If you know there is a fire outside and you still go out in the fire in the name of religion -- what’s the point of such festivals,” the minister said in a strong message.
The right leadership is key to the proper management of the COVID crisis. If leaders and political parties behave responsibly and send across the right message, people will follow their guidance. Unfortunately, at most times, leaders do cross the bounds of mandate and give free rein to their wishes, which are detrimental for society. Many times huge congregations have been called by leaders themselves with full public audacity, which has helped the spread of COVID in the last few months.
Given the initial strictness with which PM Narendra Modi had implemented the lockdown in the country, we were supposed to do much better than what we have done. We have done well but responsible social behaviour would have kept things in better control. There is still time to mend our ways and save ourselves from further escalation of the infection. The minister has rightly said that festivals don’t naturally mean huge gatherings and God can be prayed even in isolation or at homes. Today festivities have become more of a fashion trend where people splurge and binge.
It is more of superficial pomp and show and the real obeisance to God is relegated. Hence, at the time of an emergency or crisis, especially of an unprecedented kind like the one we are having at hand, festive adumbrations are enough to incite the spirit of devotion and further ado can be happily avoided if that portends greater good. We must not lower the guard and ride on our whims to abet fancy aspirations because these are not questions of life and death, while corona is. Festivities can be arranged next year as well, but a single life lost is not going to come back! Only people who have lost their near and dear ones, or who have come out of the clutches of death know the real trauma and the pain a little negligence can bring. The suggestion of the minister comes at the right time and must be taken seriously.
This is perhaps for the first time that a national leader has come out openly in support of restrained festivities. Other leaders too, cutting across party lines, need to deliver the same message to their people and raise their consciousness so that drunk in the festive extravaganza, they don’t get reckless and forget the concerns of health and limitations of human power. God is not going to help us if we are not helping ourselves. We must not forget that corona is very much here, existing and rampaging in full fury, and we are yet far from getting out of danger. Each one of us is vulnerable to it and each one’s behaviour matters as to how our society and country’s future shapes up.
The more people fall sick, the more lives we lose, the more our resources are strained and the greater the economic burden the country is set to bear. This is imprudent, selfish and anti-national behaviour if we don’t understand, realise and accept the call of the hour. Indians are largely disparaging of the laws and tend to trounce them at the slightest beck. That’s why it is a tough job to bring them to reason and make them act in a way that is against their impulsive proclivities. People here are emotional and loud.
They want to celebrate every occasion with full zeal and hustle and no dampener is good enough to mollify their high spirits. This is why we are always sitting on a tinderbox when it comes to large festivities that involve whole communities, as our temper is coloured by the emotional highs and religious proprieties over and above the underlying codes of ethics and morality. It is only political dispensations and their strict decisions and prompt actions that can tame the mad festive rush and reduce the risks of widespread public contamination arising out of unbridled mixing in cloistered spaces. We have to tread very cautiously at this hour and show our better judgment by humbling our celebrations this year. The Government has given much leeway for people’s convenience through the unlock process but we must not take undue advantage of this freedom.
The political leaders and the respective administrations must take religious leaders and community heads into confidence to chalk out the roadmap for a safe festive season without fear or favour. By the way, even the Gods will be happy if we act wisely and make smart decisions for the welfare of the community and the country. A little lapse can explode into a major catastrophe from which we will take decades to recover.