With the COVID-19 situation taking a turn for the worse across several regions of the country forcing the authorities to go for another round of lockdown, responsible conduct at public space remains the single-most important thing. Shockingly, what we have been witnessing in Assam in the run-up to the Assembly polls is the worst possible kind of behaviour by the public representatives who wield power and who should have actually led by example, given the seriousness of the COVID situation triggered by a second wave. A massive public rally taken out by minister and BJP strongman Himanta Biswa Sarma on his way to file nomination – as also the many such gatherings on a comparatively lower scale by leaders cutting across the political spectrum – exposes them to be completely lacking in concern for public health. What is being witnessed is rampant violation of even the basic COVID protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing. One may argue that the people in general have not quite been following these norms for the past couple of months or so but that is distracting from the core issue. Since there are rules and regulation in place, the authorities are responsible for enforcing those and they should not magnify the hazard manifold by their shockingly irresponsible behaviour. Being the Health Minister, it is all the more imperative that Sarma exhibited some restraint and led by example. A rapid spike in COVID apart, Friday’s rally severely inconvenienced the public, especially those in emergency situations. It has been reported how patient-carrying ambulances were stuck in the traffic for hours to allow the minister to file nomination. Such reprehensible conduct on the part of our people’s representatives would make one wonder whether the COVID pandemic had actually been a big bluff!
With a second wave of the pandemic on, the Government needs to be serious about tackling the threat before it assumes hazardous proportions. A lockdown is not going to be the answer, given the staggering economic loss it would trigger and also the fact that a shutdown does not really help reduce the spread. What the authorities need to do is to accelerate the pace of vaccination and make the public stick to the basic COVID protocols of mask wearing, social distancing and hand sanitization.