Thrissur pooram is on the move. This festival attracts millions of people. People flock themselves in the heart of Thrissur without leaving an inch of space for another person. Forget one meter distance from each other as per COVID regulations.
I was in Thrissur recently. There was a hoarding of Minister Sunil Kumar which said that Pooram would be conducted beautifully. The hoarding was placed before the elections. His recent statements are slightly different. `We are looking at different options to organise the Pooram, but everything depends on the Covid situation. We have decided not to cut short the rituals and will be allowing the public on to the Pooram ground with Covid restrictions. Those who are visiting the festival grounds and are above 45 must have a vaccination certificate!’.
Covid is a problem of decline of our immune systems. Whom are we trying to fool? Let us say that during the last one year an average of 12,000 people in India died of Covid. The mortality rate is less than 1 percent even then. Before COVID-19, as per the 2017 data, more than 25,000 people were dying in India every day. Cardiovascular diseases are the biggest killer in the world. Officially reported number deaths due to road accidents was 4,64,910 in 2017. Around 1.7 million people died in India due to air pollution in 2019. India recorded 8.8 lakh deaths of children under 5 due to malnutrition. 68 per cent of child deaths under five in India are due to malnutrition. India has the largest number of hunger deaths in the world. No Government is willing to stop this nonsense.
I am raising the comparison not to belittle the problem of Covid. One can even argue that hunger deaths in India are not `infectious’, but COVID is. I have a slight problem with such an argument. The deaths due to the destructive development model in this country is more `infectious’ than hunger deaths in India. Because, every political party, educated civilisation, the rich, the middle class, the judicial system, the mainstream newspapers and television channels and even social media are `infected’ with a disease called `destructive development’ whereby we destroy the roots of our own survival and the lives of the future generations along with the biodiversity in this planet.
The small number of those who are reported to have died of COVID-19 have died of different diseases. What the Governments should do is to strengthen the immune systems of people and block all developmental policies which weaken the immune systems of people. It means that a lot of financial rackets in both the private and public sector will have to be controlled. If somebody argues that COVID-19 is an international scam, I would say that there is an element of truth in it. Please do not be a zombie to believe in everything that you hear. Remember the worldwide campaign during the 70s and 80s called `Health for All by 2000 AD’ initiated by WHO? All Governments including India were signatories to it. What happened after that? By 2000 AD there were more health problems for the people in the world because of the wrong developmental policies of the Governments. And today, we have more health problems than 2000 AD due to the wrong policies of the Governments. But what is this small number of deaths due to COVID-19 doing in between, creating a paranoid civilisation, which cannot even protest publicly against the wrong policies of the Governments?
When it comes to Thrissur Pooram, there is a need for a wider discussion. A small pooram in a small temple in Thrissur recently had 500 people. There was a battalion of police. The police were standing together without observing the Covid regulations and the public were standing together without observing the Covid regulations. If you can’t handle a small pooram like this, how can you think of handling millions of people?
The Devaswam Boards have already come out with statements saying that dealing with Covid regulations is the job of the administration. The Collector has already stated that it is the responsibility of the State Government and the police. Now, what can police do in such a situation?
The other area which can be debated is on the faith on vaccination. To say that vaccines are useful, we will have to wait to understand its positive and negative impact for a few decades at least. You can introduce anything. Ultimately, it has to be time tested. Till then, we can consider everybody who has injected vaccines on good `faith’ as guinea pigs for a scientific discovery.
Kerala Government was internationally acclaimed for its capacity to handle Covid situations. But now, the situation is worse. Kerala has the largest network of hospitals, doctors, modern medicine and health professionals from the perspective of per square kilometer. Modern health care has been spread in every village. The Christian missionaries and the left have done an amazing job of dealing with the primary health care situation in comparison with all other states in India.
However, there are a few questions which are necessary to be looked into. How is it that in a state which is known for its amazing work of modern health care, Covid has become such a big problem? When I go to Nagarhole in Coorg, there is not a single Adivasi suffering from Covid. They say `Covid is your problem, not ours’. The adivasis in Coorg eat around 80 types of leaves including herbs and roots, they breath better fresh air and they drink better fresh water even if they do not have the community forest rights, as per the Forest Rights Act. However, the forest guards in Nagarhole have Covid. Why is it so?
The Kerala Government has also come out with regulations on public gatherings. According to the recent regulations, no public gathering should be allowed for more than two hours. Interestingly, Thrissur Pooram is not just a day and night event. It spreads to the next day also. A group of decorated 50 elephants, a group of 250 percussion artists without keeping a distance between themselves during Elinjithara Melam and fireworks which can smash your soul as well as the glass windows of buildings due to sound vibrations are the main attractions. If the percussion artists keep a one meter distance between themselves, the music itself can change. Pooram is the cultural pride of Thrissur. The minister knows that. That was why he made a statement that Thrissur Pooram will be conducted in a beautiful manner. And if, after the elections the situations have changed, then the minister should remove that hoarding from Thrissur town. We can always understand the reasons.
It is high time that the governments focus on prevention of Covid through strengthening the immune systems of people rather than artificial means of dealing with the problem. Covid is a problem of drainage of the immune system of people. Therefore, it is time to cater to the real problem. This country has around 8.5 lakh children dying of malnutrition every year. Most of the victims are in the Adivasi belts, where the mainstream civilisation has invaded or the modern development has invaded. The rest of them are Dalits. India has the largest hunger deaths in the world. Nobody is bothered about this issue. If people can not get nutritious food, how can their immunity levels be maintained? This is the most significant question during the Covid times. It is another matter that both Adani and Ambani have multiplied their profits several times during one year of Covid. There are no food regulations for them.
The other area which has to be looked into is on the compromises that governments can do between majoritarian religions and minoritarian religions. If you remember, a small gathering of Muslims in Delhi in Nazamuddin by Tabligi Jamaat was subjected to such vicious attacks and was nationally blamed for spreading Covid, by the national media. In Thrissur pooram, the expected numbers of people’s participation are in millions. And if you expect the Kerala police to handle the show, then the situation would be even more foolish.
K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist and writer