Times have changed, so should we

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet the Chief Ministers of different states on Monday to get their views on what next in India’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Some states, stretched as they are to their limits, will no
doubt suggest that the lockdown should continue for another three weeks, that is at least until the end of May.

Some may even want the lockdown to continue well into June, especially states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, West Bengal and even Telangana, all of whom are dealing with a serious crisis. The question is, can the country afford to go from one lockdown to another, with all economic activities nearly stalled? The answer is no.

The country’s economic health was not in top shape even before the coronavirus outbreak happened and now it is tottering on the brink and may come crashing down if the wheels of commercial and industrial activity do not start rolling soon.

The Central government knows this. Accordingly, indications are that the Centre is gearing up to open up different sectors of the economy in a staggered manner, including aviation and hospitality—two areas that have been hit the hardest because of the outbreak. Reports are that some industrial activity, including the manufacturing of automobiles, is likely to start as soon as this week. There is also
talk that even Railways will start passenger train services, although in a limited manner.

In this context, let us not forget the very significant statement made by the joint secretary in the health ministry, Lav Agarwal, on Friday, that the country will have “to learn to live with the virus”, while taking adequate precautions. With no vaccine insight in the near future—and even if a vaccine is developed it is unlikely to be available to the public for months, if not more than a year—what option do we have but to learn to live with the virus? But are we, as citizens of this country, ready for such an eventuality?

Last week’s melee in front of liquor shops would have filled any sensible person’s heart with distress and dread. What was on display was uncivilized behaviour, which within minutes defeated the whole purpose of social distancing and lockdown in these terrible times.

While all the governments, both Central and state, are trying their utmost to protect the citizens, the citizens too have some duty towards their country, which can be fulfilled only by following the rules. Good behaviour is the need of the hour. Lest we forget, the times have changed.

At least for the near future, if we want the country to get back on track, if we want to protect our own well-being, we have to keep our unruly side under check. It may sound an impossibility for us Indians. But if this is not done, the virus will keep returning to haunt us—in wave after wave. In short, we don’t have a choice but to fall in line.

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