The Jammu and Kashmir administration has declared the coronavirus infection an epidemic and said any person who refuses to follow orders on prevention or treatment of the disease would be dealt under the law. Announcing the regulations under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the government notification says that the Jammu and Kashmir Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020, have come into force over the entire Union Territory. All educational institutions, multiplexes, cinema halls, shopping malls, food courts, parks and gardens, clubs and roadside eateries have been till March 31 while the gyms, saloons, spas and clubs are also closed till further orders. Overloading of passengers in public transport vehicles too has been banned and the administration has directed the traffic police to seize any vehicle found overloaded. The government order also states that permits of vehicle and licences of driver shall be cancelled forthwith in case of overloading and that the transport operator unions have already been sensitised about such measures in meeting held on March 16.
These are few of the measures that have been taken to keep COVID-19 (coronavirus) at bay. However, two observations merit a special mention here: One, sitting inside the ‘ivory towers’ of higher administration, the senior government functionaries perhaps tend to think that they have done their part. They tend to believe that whatever they have ordered is implemented in proverbial letter and spirit on the ground. But unfortunately the reality is not such. Fact of the matter is that most of the government orders are observed in breach on the ground. For instance, many roadside eateries continue to operate unhindered. Overloading in passenger vehicles, including minibuses and cabs continues unabated right under the watch of the police personnel – both the territorial cops as well as the men in blues (Traffic cops). This is at least how the situation was on Wednesday. Similarly, the people arriving into the Valley are not being checked — this is certainly the case with those coming here through various means of surface transport. There may be a few random checks here and there, but there is no strictness on this count and no formal check-posts are seen at Lower Munda of elsewhere as is being officially claimed.
The second observation is that the general public too is showing its absolute carelessness and callousness. It seems that the common people are yet to understand the gravity of the emergent situation. While the COVID-19 is already wreaking havoc elsewhere, here the general public appears in no mood to heed the dos and don’ts governments trying to educate and sensitise them about. Had it not been so, then they would certainly behave in far more mature manner and alter their general behavior accordingly. But it is not happening. For instance, while one could understand the greed of transporters to overlook government’s warnings about over-loading, it is sheer madness on part of the people (passengers) to agree to travel in overloaded vehicles. Those running roadside eateries do so because it is a source of their livelihood, but those eating from such places are actually risking not only their own wellbeing but that of the entire population as well.
One can go on citing countless such instances which besides being indicative of the huge communication gap and lack of trust and rapport between the government and the general public, are also a visible evidence of latter’s negligence and lack of prudence vis-à-vis their own health and well-being. In ordinary circumstances one may afford to overlook it, but in current situation in the face of challenges posed by the coronavirus, such reckless and rash behavior of both sides has every potential of proving to be a fatal mistake.