Janta Curfew

In essence, the Government requested us, very kindly, to stay at home for the day. That wasn’t new, given that most people were at home anyway. Aside from that was the instruction to ensure that you give support staff the day off as well (so they can stay at home too), and then the request to applaud healthcare workers and staff at 5pm.

This novel coronavirus situation is the first time I’ve seen a pandemic of this kind. I was relatively younger when the SARS and Swine Flu outbreaks occurred, and was not directly impacted by Ebola because it was so concentrated. This is the first time I think we’ve felt the brunt of something that could directly affect all of us, and I think it’s why we’re all collectively trying to stay as informed as possible about everything taking place. Information breeds a sense of security, and a sense of power over the unpredictable. It carries with it a sense of safety as well: that having the information we have, and staying as informed as possible will help us take better individual and collective decisions that will lead to the most positive outcome: containment and reduction in the spread of this virus across the globe.

I’m no different. I’m sitting at home reading as much as I can about this, particularly on the regulatory side. Looking at the responses States have been taking – individually and collectively has been fascinating. Some States have clearly placed people at the forefront of all their considerations in their decision-making, while others place things ancillary to people themselves – things that rely on human labour (like economies) at the forefront. India’s response so far was puzzling – and it continues to be puzzling to me for several reasons. It feels like everyone’s taking it one day at a time, and I feel like a more thorough analysis is only possible in hindsight.

However, today, following the Prime Minister’s address a couple of days back, was the first time we heard the Center issue this kind of public clarion call for individual action. I have my reservations about this whole one-day curfew business, given the weight of scientific evidence suggesting the need for a longer curfew – and I have my reservations about why financial stimuli and aid to the largest extent possible has not been granted to State Governments, aside from other policy reservations as well. What this entire exercise told me about though, was the cult of personality that the Prime Minister is able to ride on at present.

We may be critical of several things, but it felt like hearing the Prime Minister’s message and phrasing brought some peace to individuals who were panicking, and led to some unity in voice and collective direction to stay at home – forcing smarter decision making by some people who continued to go out at all times. Aside from that, I saw a lot of videos of applause, and people genuinely took to it. If I was applauded, I know I would’ve been motivated to continue putting in the effort into anything I was being applauded for, so I understood how this would impact the psyche of most medical professionals.

I don’t support the ruling party – I ought to make that clear. There are multiple reasons for that. What I do hope for though, is that decisive action is taken over the next few days. It is clear that the Prime Minister enjoys the support of a majority portion of our nation – people will trust what he says, so I’m curious to see what his next words are – and what is called for.

In that hope, however, I remember that there is a lot that the Prime Minister has not thrown his words behind, and remain cautious about the things to come.


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