RASHMI OBEROI | 7 APRIL, 2020
Gobbledygook Apart ...There is Still a Raging Pandemic!
It’s a new day… The ‘tamasha’ our leader begets us to do every now and then is over and done with… For the time being at least I hope and pray. Now, for some hard-hitting facts and so let’s move ahead. The COVID-19 numbers have risen… The number of deaths has risen… And it will, till the time we have the necessary checks and systems in place with solutions and treatments.
Lighting diyas, lamps and candles, clanging vessels and ringing bells, clapping fervently may evoke a sense of solidarity (temporary panacea) but more than that it has no other benefit to the pandemic at large. In both events that we were subjected to by our Prime Minister, it led to further problems – of people forming large groups and celebrating on the streets fervently, of crackers being burst and loud music and revelry. This is not the time to party and celebrate.
What happened to social distancing and the reason for a lockdown? The added chaos of smoke and litter from the crackers and burnt embers has done damage once again to our environment, not to mention the effects on tackling a respiratory pandemic that has snowballed into a national crisis. Another pertinent question comes to mind… Where did these people even buy the firecrackers from when getting a few supplies is a long haul these days?
These gobbledygook messages being circulated about Corona evaporating into thin air by collective chants and prayers showcases the intellectual levels (lack of it) on a large scale. Fake news rules the roost and people wolf down such newsflashes without a blink of the eye and without understanding the damage they are causing in further circulating it. The ideology of hate is in vogue.
We are lacking a leader that is willing to make us understand what the government is doing to stop this pandemic. We need daily bulletins…updates…facts…figures. We need to know what our Health Minister is up to and what measures he has in mind to curb the virus. He is rarely seen and never heard.
A leader instils a sense of security when the country faces a catastrophe of this nature. He commands respect and a sense of pride and brings in efforts of handling the pandemic…not assigning tasks to people in the confines of their home. We have made huge mistakes from the very beginning and the lackadaisical approach in testing, diagnosing and segregating has led to slip-ups. India is at many faults while dealing with COVID -19 and dealing with medical shortages and poor isolation facilities (here again we have relied on the armed forces to handle things and organise well-equipped facilities).
We definitely have the funds but where are they being used? Do we have parameters in place to know where the money is being spent? No, we don’t! Where is the money from the relief funds being diverted? The citizens want to see transparency in these dealings and it is their right. At a time when everything is a mess and the government has the sole responsibility, we definitely need checks in place.
COVID-19 is just not about the patients and suspected positives alone. It is beyond that. So many basic health services still need to be addressed: Food, shelter, electricity, and water. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have been on the move, desperately trying to return home in their own country. Battling hunger and fatigue, they have been pushed into corners. Clearly, a lockdown to stave off a pandemic has also turned into a humanitarian crisis. Halfway through the nation-wide lockdown, the daily wage workers are starving…people have been laid-off work…the bread earners need their salaries…the sick and needy are yet to be tended to. The first week of a new month is nearly over and people need money to stock up once again.
Our Prime Minister’s messages reek of ‘symbolism’, but lack clarity and detailing. On the contrary, our individual states are handling it much better and implementing a comprehensive and holistic crisis communication strategy by constantly engaging with its citizens by clearly dishing out official statistics. Precautionary measures are announced periodically and the local governments’ action plans conveyed through various media channels. At such times, maximum outreach is the crux to handling disasters from going out of control. Undue panic has to be kept to a minimum. Only collaborative partnerships in communication can ensure grass root-level penetration of key messaging and streamlining the flow of communication at macro and micro levels, while restricting the scope of fake news/rumour mongering, that is rampant at such times.
Constructive criticism is necessary but only helps if it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Our doctors time and again keep repeating and stressing: Test, isolate and treat especially in the known hotspots. This is the need of the hour with inclusive communication. Everything will fall into place post that.
Just stop beating around the bush!