The normalisation of one bad idea is an incentive for the government to embark on a path of policymaking devoid of ideas or common sense.
The first national lockdown was a necessity. Even though its relevance is debatable, in hindsight, it did give the government enough time to prepare for what was coming. However, post the first national lockdown that lasted almost two months, state incompetence has been on display time and again.
Almost 20 months after the first encounter with Covid-19 and over 150 crore vaccine doses, governments at all levels, especially states, and other local administrations, still seem unable to understand the economic costs of lockdowns.
In the simplest words, the existence of the virus dictates that we need three things — that is social distancing, masking up amongst other precautionary measures like washing hands, sanitising, and most importantly, getting the jab.
The government in the Centre has done tremendously well to ensure that the vaccine reaches every citizen of India, and already, it is preparing for doses to be administered to children in the age group of 15-18 starting next week, and that is all it can do.
It can only advise, suggest, and request people when it comes to social distancing and other precautionary measures, which it has through successful awareness campaigns.
However, some state governments are using the Omicron scare to fulfil their nanny ambitions, and have now taken refuge in the nuisance called night curfews.
Clearly, marvelled with their success where they successfully combated the virus by deciding the permissible height for the idols during Ganapati Puja, these governments are now looking to fight Omicron with similar vigour and ideas.
On December 25 (Saturday), Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was seen addressing an election rally in a crowded cricket stadium in Lucknow. Social distancing norms went for a toss, masks were not visible in most of the pictures, and one can only assume that the people present there were at least partially vaccinated.
Yet, the state government announced a night curfew from the same evening, between 11 pm and 5 am, until New Year’s eve. The same nanny move was employed by the governments in Karnataka, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Delhi.
On the same day, malls in Delhi and Noida were overcrowded, given Christmas eve, and as always, the yellow and blue lines on the Delhi Metro were running with full capacity.
The story of most markets in Delhi, be it in Kamala Nagar or Rajouri Garden or Sarojini Nagar, was the same. Eateries are as crowded, during the day, as they were before the pandemic, and only last week, movie theatres, during the day, were running housefull shows of the new Spider-Man movie across India.
However, one can hardly blame the people or the politicians even, for the virus fatigue is real and elections must be fought, and economic recovery is a must too.
An average worker, today, is more worried about the lockdown than the virus, and this has been the story since last year, which is why the government ensured minimal economic disruption during the months of April and May, when the Delta variant gripped the nation.
Yet, the state governments want the multiplexes, which were shut for more than a year, to suffer because of the Omicron scare. The few days between Christmas and New Year, when the hotels and other eateries register record sales, must be made to suffer, as per the same state governments, even though the Covid norms are flouted openly, shamelessly and unapologetically during the day.
While the same hotels and eateries have successfully cultivated a model for food delivery that is in line with the Covid norms, they must suffer the tyranny of night curfews, even when they got zero financial support from the government.
Cab drivers, who have suffered due to lack of tourism, lockdowns, and even the soaring fuel prices in the last 18-months, must pay the price for the Omicron scare.
Vendors from the lower income groups, aiming to meet ends after a dreadful stretch of 18-months, must accept their role as scapegoats for the state governments wanting to look smart. The likes of Zomato that had their delivery partners vaccinated at record pace must also suffer, even when the same partners are the only ones today continuing to adhere to Covid norms with complete sincerity.
Until there is a classified study that confirms the spread of the virus at ten times the rate during the day, one the state governments alone have access to, this whole business of night curfews is nothing but a publicity stunt for the administrations to pass the buck on to the people in case things go south.
Nothing about night curfews is about planning, accountability, or responsibility, not even remotely. It’s just work done for the heck of it.
What is also worrying is the precedent such irrational economic curfews set. Only a few weeks ago, the apex court suggested that the national capital must be put on a lockdown for the weekend to curb pollution.
When the government of the day is not bothered about the economic costs of curfews and lockdowns, why would the milords, high on judicial activism, even bother?
This must stop. Come 2022 and the Centre should advise the state governments to do away with lockdowns, completely. Pandemic is not only about the number of cases or unfortunate deaths but also the people that are pushed into years of debt or irreversible poverty with such diktats.
In a country where the cash flow economy is the bread and butter for most people, such lockdowns are no less than an economic war against the masses. For good or bad, we must learn to exist with the virus, and shun these economic curfews.
About time the state governments stopped taking the voters for a ride, for crowds during the day and curfews during the night shall fool no one, not even the virus.
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