Modi 2

To

Shri A K Bhalla

Union Home Secretary

Dear Shri Bhalla,

We are once again facing a steep surge of the Covid virus; this time it is the new mutant, Omicron looming large. This Covid variant is reported to be three times more infectious than its Delta predecessor, which wreaked havoc on the people during the second wave.

In order to ensure that the Centre and the States do not repeat the costly mistakes they committed during the second wave, which resulted in thousands of people losing their lives, your Ministry, in consultation with the Ministry of Health and the State governments, should put in place a rigorous system of enforcing Covid-appropriate responses to contain the spread of the virus during the third wave, which seems imminent. It is not enough that mere written advice/ directions are issued. It is necessary that the provisions of the national disaster management law are invoked and enforced in a manner that each and every one in the country, including the highest, are treated equally and firmly.

I may remind you in this connection that, during the second wave of Covid, non-compliance with the rule of law, especially by the public figures, who were supposed to comply with the same as anyone else and set an example to the others, caused trauma. At that time, senior political leaders competed with one another in organising political rallies without caring for the lives of the ordinary people. Religious congregations were organised by the political parties as a means to gain political mileage.

In West Bengal, for example, where massive election rallies were organised and addressed by the senior leaders of almost all the political parties, the second wave of Covid surged sharply, causing 5,000 deaths during the three months that followed. Your Ministry, the Election Commission and the State authorities became passive onlookers, while the virus helped by those large gatherings gained further momentum and caused all round havoc. Those responsible for such unethical and harmful conduct and those who had the statutory power to act, but chose not to act, should have been prosecuted as offenders and abetters under the provisions of the national disaster management Act.

I may mention in that connection that “negligent/ malignant acts likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life” are penal offences under Sections 269 & 270 of the IPC. Strictly, if the local police authorities had any respect for the law of the land, they ought to have initiated action against all those responsible, irrespective of how high and mighty they were.

As far as the Omicron crisis is concerned, as usual, written advisories are being liberally issued by your Ministry and the Union Health Ministry, without a matching effort to translate the same into action. For example, the Union Health Secretary has advised the States on 21-12-2021 to set up “war rooms” to combat Omicron, without a matching strategy to ramp up vaccination supplies to cover 100% of the people fully with both the doses, provide vaccines for booster doses, organise the supply of medicines which are likely to run short of the requirement, replace the defective ventilators supplied earlier by PMCARE and help the States to expand their public healthcare facilities to ensure that the poor do not have to rush once again to private hospitals that fleece them, as it happened during the second wave.

While the ordinary citizens in some States are being forced to observe social distancing norms for Christmas prayer meetings and abandon New Year celebrations, there seems to be no matching sensitivity on the part of our leaders to do likewise.

For example, the Prime Minister is reported to have addressed more than two lakh women at Prayagraj on 21-12-2021 (https://www.news18.com/news/india/pm-modi-to-visit-prayagraj-on-dec-21-to-participate-in-spl-program-to-be-attended-by-over-2-lakh-women-4572542.html). Similarly, the BJP seems to have flagged off six “yatras” (https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/bjp-flags-off-six-yatras-targets-akhilesh-7680884/) in connection with the coming UP polls. Likewise, the other political parties, especially, Samajwadi Party and Congress have also been mobilising the people, without caring for the adverse implications.

To contain the new Omicron wave, your Ministry should immediately invoke the provisions of the national disaster management law and direct the State authorities, especially the police to enforce the same against every one, without discrimination. They should also invoke the two IPC provisions, namely, Sections 269 & 270 to book all those who violate the norms, particularly those who hold large political rallies in the poll-bound States of UP, Punjab and Goa.

In UP, Punjab and Goa, there are 77 million, 13 million and 0.2 million persons respectively, not vaccinated at all and 135 million, 19 million and 0.5 million persons respectively, who did not get the second dose. Each one of those persons is highly vulnerable to Omicron and the ongoing political rallies will cause havoc in their case. Even vaccinated persons will get exposed to the virus, as a result of such large gatherings.

Against this background, as a concerned senior citizen, I demand that the Union Home Ministry should invoke its authority under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 and clamp Covid appropriate restrictions across the country, with special reference to UP, Punjab and Goa, ask the State governments including the local police authorities to enforce the restrictions strictly, along with Sections 269 & 270 of the IPC, with immediate effect. In enforcing the statutory provisions, there should not be any discrimination whatsoever. All citizens including the high and the mighty among the political leaders should be treated as equals in the matter of compliance with the rule of law.

Unlike during the earlier two waves, your Ministry, instead of passively remaining content with words, should assume a proactive role, as it should and translate its words into tangible action. If anyone fails to enforce the rule of law, whether at the Centre or in the States, they too should be held liable as abetters of the offences and proceeded against.

I am marking a copy of this letter to the Cabinet Secretary and the Union Health Secretary for necessary action on similar lines.

I suggest that the Cabinet Secretary brings these concerns to the notice of the Prime Minister and advises him to withhold all political rallies in view of the imminent Omicron crisis. Instead of physical rallies,the Prime Minister will be doing a great service to the people, if he holds only virtual meetings through the internet and asks his colleagues in BJP and the leaders of the other political parties to do likewise. As the head of the political executive at the Centre, I believe that it is a statutory obligation cast on him.

I am also circulating this letter widely for generating a public discussion on the role of the political leaders in complying with the national disaster management requirements, with special reference to their failure to comply with Covid norms and the enormous harm they are causing to the lives of the people.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to Govt of India


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