Dangerous optics

Kashmir Times. Dated: 3/23/2020 11:33:20 PM

Histrionics without proper awareness and clear messages are going to further compound the problem as witnessed on Sunday

The manner in which a 5 minute nation-wide ceremony on Sunday to applaud the doctors and health staffers working at the forefront in the battle against COVID-19 from the isolation of homes turned into a street spectacle with people dancing and banging plates together in huge assemblies for more than half an hour, at many places, is an indication of the low level of awareness, about the guidelines and protocols in the fight against coronavirus, being generated within the country. Majority of the people going ecstatic were the educated class and it is important to understand how the moment meant for applauding the main warriors of the disease turned into one fed by the superstitious belief that banging plates would make coronavirus run away from the country. The idiotic levels of lack of reason and scientific temperament to which masses of the country have plunged is worrying and can only be undone through scientific education beyond the classrooms. The prime minister who gave the call for the five-minute event as an appreciation for the doctors who are doing a great job cannot directly be held responsible for the mockery that his 'Janata Curfew' was turned into after 5 P.M. Though a 14-hour ritualistic isolation period was simply symbolic, created for the optics, but even that came a cropper mid-way. Soon after the prime minister's address on Thursday, the social media went into a tizzy with circulation of messages talking about the 'science' of clapping in challenging epidemics. The prime minister had three days to question the veracity of the myths that had been unleashed after his address, if he wanted to. He's a strong leader with a huge following and his word carries weight for many within the country. But even as he tweeted to remind the nation about the five-minute appreciation ceremony, he chose not to make any clarifications about the uncontrollable genie he had unleashed on the social media. The onus of the gap between his words and how the public understood them cannot entirely be put on a gullible section of the population. The prime minister is responsible for choosing not to make any clarifications at a time when the significance of social and physical distancing needed to be reinforced not thrown to the winds. The country's fight against coronavirus now appears on a week wicket as maintaining physical distance and hygiene are the two basic pre-requisites of prevention but there appears to be little understanding about that.
World-over, people in their self-isolations have come out to their balconies and windows to give a grand applause to the doctors risking their lives to be in the forefront of the disease, but nowhere has it been turned into a theatrical absurdity. It is not only the endeavours and efforts of the doctors that need to be appreciated, also appreciable is the role of health-workers standing beside them, or scientists working round the clock to understand the new threat and find a vaccine or medication, or the many people connected with the supply and delivery system, the pilots who continue to ferry people and the truckers who are transporting goods in these conditions of crisis. Appreciation is important but rings hollow when those in responsible positions have not done more than offering lip sympathy rather than ensure best possible protection and safety of all these workers. Reports indicate how doctors or para-medics in many hospitals across the country have not been provided with sufficient protective gears, pilots of Air India were refused entry into their own homes, after they returned from duty, by colony inmates who decided to turn the threat of coronavirus contagion into a mission for promoting another form of untouchability. Doctors have also complained of poor working conditions and highlighted the need for more beds in hospitals, enhancing hygiene levels and disproportionate number of ventilators if the cases begin to blow up. These are the things that the government should have focused on first. The government is expected to do much more than just resort to histrionics of clapping rituals that actually turn into events that could enhance the dangers of spread of the contagion.



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