To

Shri Narendra Modiji

Prime Minister

 

Dear Shri Modiji,

I compliment your government, especially Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Health Minister and Dr S. Jaishankar, the External Affairs Minister for the commendable effort they have put in to stem the tide of Corona Virus within the country and for airlifting hundreds of stranded Indians from  Wuhan, Naples, Teheran and so on. This has sent a very positive message to the rest of the world about India’s resolve to manage the crisis.

The efforts put in by your government and by the different State Governments involve a great deal of commitment on the part of the medical and the para-medical personnel and the rest of the machinery of the government. It also involves the deployment of scarce public funds on a large-scale for setting up the required quarantine facilities for the affected persons, for establishing a wide network of testing facilities and for creating public awareness of the need to take precautions to contain the spread of the infection. When such a nation-wide campaign has been launched, one would expect the public functionaries in high positions to set an example in self-discipline and self-regulation that they expect in turn from the public. Community response comes spontaneously when those at the helm of affairs submit themselves to the same norms they preach.

The campaign against Corona Virus assumes greater significance in the context of the SAARC initiative you have personally taken by asking your counterparts in the SAARC community to launch a regional onslaught against the spread of Corona Virus. Your initiative to contribute $10 million for containing Corona Virus across the SAARC nations has received widespread support.

Internally, one would expect the senior public functionaries like Union Ministers, the Chief Ministers and their colleagues implement what they say in the public domain. Unfortunately, there have been several instances of late of such dignitaries breaching the norms to the detriment of the public interest.

For example, I refer to the following news report

(https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/coronavirus-after-restricting-mass-gatherings-karnataka-cm-attends-wedding-which-had-2000-guests/articleshow/74644166.cms)

The above report referred to an extravagant wedding celebration attended by the Chief Minister of Karnataka on 15-3-2020 at Belgavi, where there were more than 2,000 guests. One is not sure whether the virus was lurking hidden in such a large gathering of people, ready to trigger a multiplier effect in which several thousands of innocent persons would have already got affected.

 

It appears that the Karnataka Chief Minister is more concerned about social niceties and their importance in politics, than what is good from the point of view of the welfare of the public!

Does this not make a mockery of the public appeals that have been made time and again by you, the Union Health Minister and several other responsible public functionaries on the Do’s and Don’ts for containing the transmission of the virus? Against the backdrop of your address to the SAARC members, does this not send a negative signal to the rest of the world on the seriousness with which India wishes to counter the spread of Corona Virus?

There is more it than the mere optics of it.

The scientific evidence on the true characteristics of the new virus is still inadequate. According to the recent research findings, even those who display no Corona symptoms can still carry the virus and spread it to the others. Also, it appears that the virus can stay with a person for more than a month, even after he or she has been treated and declared “cured”. As and when more scientific evidence emerges, the strategy for containing the virus spread will have to be progressively modified.

The overall approach, in my view, should be “Hope for the best; plan for the worst“.

In a congregation of more than 2,000 persons attending the wedding, even if there is a small proportion of Corona Virus carriers, they could spread it to thousands of other persons with whom they come into contact. In such a wedding function, there are many from the low-income groups who are involved in providing auxiliary services. If they get affected, it will cause an irreparable loss to them in terms of their livelihoods, in addition to the trauma that the virus causes. It is distressing that the elected head of the State should ignore these aspects.

Anyone deliberately contributing to the spread of the virus should also be deemed to have committed an act of criminal negligence in view of the debilitating impact of the virus on the health of the people. This is something that all public functionaries should realise.

Against this background, I appeal to you to express your disappointment and concern to the Chief Minister of Karnataka.

There have been similar lapses in several other States. You may like to write to the States in general to observe self-regulation at every level. Perhaps, as the governments of Delhi and a few other States have done, there should be unambiguous curbs on public gatherings. This should be treated as most urgent, as otherwise the virus can cause havoc in India soon.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to GOI

Visakhapatnam

16-3-2020

 


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One Comment

  1. Avatar Sally Dugman says:

    My state of MA, USA has it legal now that we can only have gatherings of 25 people. Break the law and trouble comes.

    You may wish to direct your government to set this rule in place. If the government doesn’t comply, you government officials can watch about what happens next and it will be ugly.