The steady increased in the incidence of COVID-19 infections in Jammu and Kashmir is a worrying factor. Even though Jammu and Kashmir Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations remain in force, which authorises the authorities to initiate penal action against any person who refuses to follow orders on prevention or treatment of the disease, fact of the matter is that nobody seems to be bothered about and by these regulations. People can be seen roaming around and going about their business without caring to follow the COVID-related standard operating procedures. No wonder only a small percentage of people is seen wearing facial masks or following social distancing measures in the marketplaces, in government offices, public transport and elsewhere.
It seems that the senior government functionaries perhaps tend to think that they have done their part by notifying rules for thwarting the spread of the disease. They seem 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 more in breach than in adherence. For instance, roadside eateries continue to operate unhindered, without any checks whatsoever on them. Overloading in passenger vehicles, including minibuses and cabs continues unabated right under the so-called watchful eye of the police personnel – both the territorial cops as well as the men in blues (Traffic cops). Some time back Srinagar Municipal Corporation through an elaborate advertisement campaign warned action against those seen without wearing the face masks. But this initiative remained confined to the FM radio studios from where the advertisements were aired – and doubtlessly didn’t show results worth even the cost that was incurred on making and running the ad campaign. One can go on citing countless instances to point out and prove the official carelessness and lack of will and initiative to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Having said it, now it is also a reality that the government cannot be expected to use punitive action or its threat to coerce people to behave responsibly for their own good. The general public is showing absolute carelessness and callousness. It seems that the 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 world-over are 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.
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. It seems that the people have made up their mind that come what may they are not going to change their reckless and sure-loser behavioral practices, even if it means risking their own lives as well as those of their dear ones. This behavioral trait – this popular resistance to change — besides being indicative of the huge communication gap and lack of trust and rapport between the government and the general public, is 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.