Former NDRF,DG Raises question on india’s lock down strategy

images (23)NEW DELHI : The central government seems to be in state of confusion in dealing with the new Corona virus Disease (Covid-19). If the government had taken timely steps, many lives could have been saved. When World Health Organization (WHO) alerted the world, it had already spreed in the country.
Indian government kept experimenting with the different models adopted by many western countries to stop its spread and announced nationwide lock down without giving proper thoughts to its pitfalls and perils. The government thought that confining 1.35 billion people to their houses was the only way out.
Within hours police and central forces were put on alert who did not hesitate to use arm twisting tactics to deal with the violators of the lockdown. Many believed it to be unprofessional. In desperation the government took one step after the other to control the situation. The result was that the number of infected people continued to spike and today we stood at number five in the world in terms of number of infected people.mgrnts2
The way the lock down was extended in phased manner resulted in the huge resentment in the society.The decision forced the
industries to close down and lakhs of migrant laborers who were promised that the situation will be under control within three weeks were forced to return to their native places. The entire assessment of the government proved to be wrong.
Within a month more than 12 crore people were rendered jobless. The figure does not include those working in unorganized sector. The reverse migration posed a new challenge of controlling the spread of the pandemic.A majority of them were not testes. As a result they became potential carriers of the deadly virus.
The government invoked National Disaster Management Act (NDMA) 2005 and the colonial Pandemic Act 1887. But instead of treating reverse migration under these laws, the government chose to deal with the situation as law and order problem.mgrnts2
If the government had implemented MDMA or the Pandemic Act with proper planning, not only many lives could have been saved, but the state of confusion would also not have been arisen. The government had ample time to do that, but surprisingly The PMO and the MHA wasted this crucial time in fixing the responsibilities of the NDMA officials and experts. Spoke exclusively to Mr. Sanjay Kumar Former Director General of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), on the issue. He said that the basis of assessment of the gravity and extent of the situation by the government is not so explicit. Also the factors relied upon for decision making and planning to tackle the enemy is not transparent.
“Delhi must have been aware of the COVID-19 infection spreading on the globe and its entry into India when the first case was detected in Kerala early this year. But no alarm seems to have been raised and concrete steps initiated to nip the problem in the bud or even to prevent its spread further. Though some measures were adopted from time to time in piecemeal by different states and agencies, a definite strategy was missing, allowing breakout of the epidemic across states.
Government agencies including the NDMA are learnt to have informed and cautioned the states about the outbreak of the epidemic which led to varied responses by them as per their wisdom and circumstances. The central government took charge of the situation only after 45 days or so when the Janta Curfew /Lock down was enforced. By that time the covid-19 pandemic had engulfed almost all the parts of the country.
Mr Kumar said “Even after these 45 days or even longer since the outbreak crossed Chinese territory, no visibly substantial steps appeared to have been taken on the ground. The viral infection fully exposed our health services meaning that even our health-care system was not fully geared up to meet the challenge. In the backdrop of all this, the government announced the nationwide lock down, the idea which came straight from the western countries badly marred by the pandemic.”
Former DG told that the government while taking such a vital decision could have customized the model for Indian conditions, taking into account – economy, rural-urban population density, living conditions of different strata of populace particularly those on the edges, health-care facilities, livelihood, demographic conditions, supply chain management, sustainability and such other related issues.
The fact remains that India had more time and examples to deal with the situation than the apparently less fortunate USA or the European nations leaving aside China. But the Government’s priorities or constraints are not known.
Some timely steps on the part of related agencies could have made significant differences. By any standard it can easily be construed as a case of lost opportunity inflicting heavy price with each passing day on a large number of parameters including life and property and wide collateral damages.Mr Kumar Said.
The former IPS officer also pointed out that the way the lock down was implemented as a curfew situation, the entire police machinery and local administration today stands in the dock. This could not simply be called professional policing. He said that the country
had many options. If it indeed was an law and order problem, the government could have enforced IPC-CrPC.
“By encouraging the police to let loose to enforce the provisions of the Disaster Management Act to keep people confined to their shelters, if they had any, under the humanitarian crisis, brought only disgrace for the already demoralized police force of the nation. This could have been easily avoided, had the measures been implemented in a humane way under the Incident Response System (IRS), envisaged for the purpose.
Questions were raised at the way the governments of UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi dealt with the situation as they tried to silence the hungry and the homeless by sheer coercion.”
The Former senior Bureaucrat said that most of the governments failed to comprehend the implementation of the provisions of the D M Act-2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act 1887 and interpreted them in the way they suited them. He narrated that India is the only country where such a large force of laborers were compelled by the situation for reverse migration.
“If the government had resorted to the IRS, most of these problems would have been addressed and avoided, needless to say that the lock down would also have served its purpose in a much more meaningful way. “Most of these laborers are landless/homeless and their return would put more pressure on already crumbling resources and infrastructures in rural regions.
If this situation is not addressed immediately, this could well turn into a battle between haves and have-nots. The state governments must take it seriously the humanitarian crisis could give rise to a new law and order problem he added”
The Former NDRF, DG Sanjay Kumar observed that labour laws which seem to be favouring the workers, may actually be totally different on the ground. Recently labour laws have been amended to promote industries and unless properly applied, it may undermine job guarantee and welfare aspects, if not largely detrimental to the extent of creating discontentment among the workforce.

Now that the whole country is under lock down, there is no forum for open deliberations on these new provisions. “In fact the conditions in our country are totally different. Here a majority of work-force is in the unorganized sector. Its impact may be seen in the times to come.
The COVID-19 crisis has given a big jolt to our dream of becoming a five trillion economy in a time frame as projected. It is a question of our survival. If one goes by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), more than 12 crore people have become jobless under lock down”, he said.
He further added that the disturbing reports coming in from quarantine centres from all over the country put a question mark on the efficiency of the state governments.“ It would be better, if the arrangements were made so as to cause minimum movement of the guest migrants. This could have averted the fresh spell of transmission at least in rural areas and saved many lives due to migration.”
According to former DG, NDRF the NDRF has a proven track record of working in such conditions which could also have been supported by the local administration in better execution of the D M Act. He said that issuing a large number of advisories/directives by the centre, state and local administration on almost day to day basis created huge confusion for the masses.
The issue of migrant laborers has unfortunately raised question marks on the role/attitude of the judiciary as well. Initially, the Supreme Court declined to intervene, but when the situation went out of control, it took suo-moto cognizance and issued directives. But till then it was too late.
He said that there were ambiguities in the MHA advisories and gaps between central and the state governments’ directives. “Our energies must have been focused on organising a purposeful battle against the virus and the disease caused by it.
I would reiterate that we are still not fully geared up to cope with the gigantic and formidable situation like this. We must be clear about our priorities and focus to accomplish the cherished objectives at the earliest at the minimum possible cost.”

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