Lockdown: Some social musings

Prof. R. G. Dastidar

We are living in one of the most trying periods in human history. The unique and unprecedented scenario that has unfolded across the world in a small time-frame due to the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken humanity.

The COVID pandemic and the lockdown has activated a virtual world and all have been sucked into it. People in India are no exception.

After all, we are used to living in a vibrant informal network of family, neighbourhood and work relationships. Suddenly these have vanished behind locked doors!

So what can we learn about ourselves in this situation of isolation and social distancing?

For a start, the lockdown was hardly expected to be successful closer home as unlike China, the only other country with comparable population size, India’s democratic governance has its own limitations. But clearly, we are doing very well in trying to control the pandemic! It is a brave- dedicated government-backed by society. Individuals and hundreds of thousands of families across all social spectrum resolved to fight COVID-19. This is indeed intriguing as well as gratifying to witness.

One clear message all of us are now getting is that of social ownership. People have accepted and supported the government’s decision to go for a total lockdown despite the personal cost involved. In many ways, Indians have gone out and voluntarily offered gifts like food packets and other essentials to the needy. People in large numbers have raised money voluntarily to meet the health care and other needs of the people. They have organized local communities and helped the authorities cutting across caste, class or religious lines. Extending monetary support to daily wage earners, or domestic help can be seen as a common phenomenon across the country. We have always known about poverty and hardships, but now we can see plenty of resilience and commitment with a human face.

Traditional Indian family values have surfaced with the receding capitalist market. These underscore our social organization and the spirit of the nation.

The high points notwithstanding, there is also no dearth of contradictions and they throw up many challenges.

People are asking for relaxation in terms of the sale of liquor in many creative ways! Some are showing irrational behaviour, callousness and desperation! Anxiety and depression is expected in these uncertain times and what is aggravating the situation even more is the adverse impact of COVID-19 on global economy. Also, there is political play with opposition parties doing all in their command to question the Government’s response to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the extended lockdown. The rumour mills are in full swing.
Soon, hopefully, this lockdown will be over, and we shall be back on the normal track, but will life be the same in the post-lockdown phase? Maybe for some, who would want to forget it all, and get back to business. No matter what, one thing is clear, the world has got altered significantly by the Corona pandemic.

The entire world will have to learn to live with the deadly virus and the threat it poses; also all the politics and strategizing it has unleashed, along with the potential threat of biological warfare, which is now a globally conceived reality.

Now conventional and nuclear wars can be treated as only one dimension of war! What we have witnessed within a short period is a reminder that it’s not just the man living on the border who will be paying for the nation’s freedom and peace during a war, as COVID pandemic has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that any biological war will be on the doorstep of every citizen.

From now onward, just paying taxes will not be enough. We have to own and embrace our society and government in more ways than one as the individual’s survival lies in the survival of the nation.

The Corona pandemic has made global processes, international politics and its consequences a part of common man’s perception. Just having effective and judicious governments is no longer enough; there is also a need for a vigilant and active society.

Another nudge to have significantly altered social consciousness has come from closer quarters. The actions and intentions of Jamaat and its ardent followers is under the scanner. This is not to say that the Jamaat is representative of all Muslims in India. Those who have resisted the government’s efforts to control the spread of COVID have questioned the very basis of nationhood…. we the people of India, who are we? Add to this the acts of some who have tried to covertly infect others. Defying and criminally attacking health workers and other government personnel has shaken us. What comes first – nation or religion? National good or sectarian agenda? What are the limits of secularism? Can a group of people be allowed to jeopardize the well-being of the nation?

There is another fundamental question. This question is not a question randomly asked but may be seen in the systematic sequence of events spanning decades of independent India. It is no longer about some people who have been contextually misled or provoked into mis-endeavors; it is about how we define nationhood and what will be its social basis?

Underlying what may seem, a political question and manoeuvring is the civilizational rift, the schism in the two world views.

Let me elaborate!

How do we define the relationship between the individual, society and State? Shaking off the yoke of imperial colonial rule was only the first step; the need was to strengthen community and develop national character. Unfortunately, successive governments in the post-Independene phase have responded more to electoral dictates and done little to uplift the society. This amounts to overlooking the fact that it has been India’s ancient civilizational impetus, as evident in its values, dispersed latently in social institutions that have supported a plural, secular and free society.

History has some essential message for India in the present context; the question now is: Do we recognize it? Will we, as a people respond quick enough to save the pluralistic fabric and evolutionary impetus of an uninterrupted civilization?

The author, Dr. R.G.Dastidar, is Professor and Head, Department of Sociology Barkatullah University. Her areas of academic interest and research include Indian Society, Gender, and Development issues.

COVID-19 detection graph drops in MP; The march of death continues for Bhopal Gas

Newsroom24x7 Network

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said that there has been a significant drop in detection of COVID in Madhya Pradesh.

As per the test reports of 30 April, 2.4 percent have tested Corona positive in the state. In Bhopal 1.9 percent have tested positive, 2.2 percent in Indore and 4.4 percent in Jabalpur.

COVID-19 and those affected by the Union Carbide gas diasaster of 1984

It has come to light that 12 out of 13 COVID-19 deaths in Bhopal are of those who were exposed to toxic gases of Union Carbide in 1984.

On March 21, 2020 the organisations working among the survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster had written a letter to several state & central govt officials and brought on record the data showing that gas victims were 5 times more vulnerable to COVID-19 than general population and had sought urgent intervention towards providing essential services of testing and critical care to the gas affected population in view of their heightened vulnerability to the COVID – 19 pandemic.

“While no steps were taken by the state Government of Madhya Pradesh or the Central government to address this critical issue, 12 of 13 COVID-19 deaths in Bhopal are of Bhopal gas victims. 12 gas victims have died untimely deaths due to criminal negligence of the governments at state & centre as special attention was not paid to their medical needs, said Rashida Bee of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh.

The analysis of 12 deaths clearly shows that: all were male, all were gas victims and were taking chronic care for their lung, heart & kidney illnesses, 95% of them were above the age of 55years. Out of 12 deaths, 4 died outside the gates of the hospital, 7 died within 24hrs of admission and only 2 got prolonged care, which is a clear indication that lack of prompt care was one of the reason of their deaths. None of the deceased family members has been given any medical records or COVID-19 positive test reports. All died in government hospitals which barely has the infrastructure to take care of so many critical cases. The analysis of deaths & concrete suggestions was provided to officials of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt of India, ICMR, Health Commissioner, GOMP, Collector-Bhopal and to many others so that lessons can be learnt & changes could be made accordingly but sadly it looks like even this letter has met the same fate as the earlier one, said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action.

The Supreme Court appointed Monitoring Committee took cognisance of the letter dated 23rd April of the survivor organisations and has asked ICMR institutes Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC) and National Institute for Research on Environmental Health (NIREH) & Dept of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation, GOMP to ensure COVID-19 testing of all gas victims in view of their vulnerability. It also all three agencies to provide super speciality treatment to gas victims and has asked NIREH to carry out COVID-19 testing as they have all the relevant infrastructure.

The ICMR’s (indian council of medical research) 31st institute NIREH (National Institute for Research in Environmental Health) whose mandate is to carry out research on the morbidities and long term impact of exposure related illnesses. This institute has a list of the most vulnerable i.e. persons above 60 and with co-morbidities such as Diabetes, Hypertension, COPD, Heart & Kidney problems & Cancers in the gas exposed population and in the last one month they have not moved an inch in screening, testing any of the gas victims as they have been observing the lockdown. This is nothing more than a dereliction of the duty, said Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow-Carbide.

Famous actor Irrfan Khan is no more

Newsroom24x7 Network

Mumbai: Famous actor Irrfan Khan, who rose to international fame with Slumdog Millionaire, died on Wednesday 29 April at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute in Mumbai.

Irrfan was admitted in ICU for colon infection.

Anguished over the sad news of Irfan Khan’s demise. He was a versatile actor, who’s art had earned global fame and recognition. Irfan was an asset to our film industry. In him, the nation has lost an exceptional actor and a kind soul. My condolences to his family and followers. -Amit Shah, Home Minister, Government if India

Words shall never be enough to describe what legacy you left behind. One of the best actors of Indian cinema & the finest to represent us internationally with his unmatched talent. You shall forever remain an inspiration. – Sunil Shastri, BJP leader

Really saddened to hear about the untimely demise of actor Irfan Khan. An incredible actor & an amazing person. He holds a special place in Indian Cinema for his unique acting style & dialogue delivery. May Allah give strength to his loved ones to bear this pain & loss. – Syed Shahnawaz Hussain – National Spokesperson BJP and former Union Minister

Zafarul-Islam Khan needs to apologise publicly

Rajiv Lochan

Zafarul-Islam Khan needs to apologise publicly for his foolish stance of creating ill-will between people in India.

‘Muslims’ standing with ‘Muslims’ amounts to ‘Muslims’ standing against everyone else. That is what the lived experience of India tells us. Now the Chair of the Delhi Minorities Commission propagates the same. Could it be that the very idea that Muslims are a ‘minority’ in India is flawed and that idea promotes separatism among Muslims, promotes a feeling of disaffection against everyone else in India, nurtures a feeling of hurt and victimhood that disallows Muslims from growing? After all, in India there are tens of communities that are very small in size. Often we have heard of Jains, Parsis, Chettis, as ‘successful’ groups. But we also have ‘brahmins’, who are negligible in number, not very rich and yet without a sense of victimhood.

Arab countries and most Muslim countries understand this. They also understand that the Muslims of India ARE NOT a persecuted people. Rather, that in India the Muslims are the most pampered people who are given tremendous support from all sides. Kuwait and other countries have not fallen into the Islamist trap that was created by the Islamist in India and their Leli (Left-Liberal) henchmen.

It is rather simple and has been so since the Muslim League created Pakistan for Muslims while Bharat/India/Hindustan consciously refused to be a country for ‘Hindus’ but insisted that the proper destiny for a country is to be for all the people. The Constitution makers of India debated the possible identities that Bharat should adopt and consciously chose the position that a country should be for all people and not for only one or the other religion. This itself was an amazing step since a large number of successful countries in the world had adopted one or the other religion.
Zafarul-Islam Khan​, it seems, has come forward to promote separatism in India. Why would he want to do that? Why such wilful ignorance of the way India is? Why this great desire to single out Muslims from the generality of Indians? Why to feign hurt and blame others?
The people of India have been kind enough and understanding enough to even put behind that stupid behaviour of the Markaz of the Tablighi Jamaat. That has been the source of 54% of all infections in Haryana as reported by Bhartesh Singh Thakur. Every person in Haryana is suffering seriously because of the stupid behaviour of the Tablighis. Yet, no one has even thought of hurting them for harming every Haryanavi. Rather, the belief is that these were ignorant people, driven by their foolish commitment to a bad leadership.

The author, Rajiv Lochan, is a renowned historian-scholar