Finally, our Prime Minister spoke. And it was a damp squib. It left us wanting, wanting something more.
Ever since the 8 pm address of November 8, 2016, the night of demonetisation, any address by the PM at 8 pm makes people anxious. As the March 19, 2020, address was announced, some people went out and exchanged their 2,000 rupee notes for smaller denominations.
On Thursday night many of us sat with a list of “will he” scenarios, such as: Will the PM announce a lockdown, will he announce some form of social security for the poor, will he announce that insurance companies can cover Coronavirus treatment, will he announce a tax break for companies who pay salaries even if production has stopped, will he announce a waiver of interest on home loans for a few months, will he announce a special Helpline for senior citizens who are more susceptible to the virus?
But all we got was: Wash your hands, stay at home, avoid hospital visit if possible, be kind to employees and finally, make some noise for the good doctors.
When a leader speaks, there should be no opportunity for interpretation during a time of crisis. The PM first asked for two weeks of our time and then requested everyone to be at home on Sunday from 7 am to 9 pm. This left many second-guessing that Sunday was a dry run for the next “two weeks.” This sent people on a shopping spree.
Then he said they are putting together a “COVID-19 Task Force” headed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to come up with measures to address the economic crisis! Other countries have already come up with measures; we on the other hand had the luxury of time, yet we are only now putting together a “Task Force”?
Here we must appreciate Kerala Government that announced a Rs. 20,000 crore package where poor are going to get free ration, small pension and health care. Apart from this, they have given consumers a month to clear their electricity and water bills and the Kerala High Court has directed banks to defer recovery proceedings till April first week. Even the CM of Uttar Pradesh has promised to put money in the Jan-Dhan accounts of all unorganised workers. The starving and the desperate will push civil society into crime mode and along with virus problem we may end up with a law and order problem.
The PM’s speech was unorthodox; it was short and superficial. So let’s hope there is another address coming up which will have clinical depth and clarity. May be, our PM believes actions speak louder than words. And so far the low number of cases shows there has been action.
Meanwhile, many offices in urban India have turned into ‘Bar & Restaurant’ with emotional snacking and sniffing alcohol fumes from excessive use of sanitisers.
We enter the office and the floor is emanating alcohol fumes from the Phenol. Then we pump sanitiser on our palms before and after touching the biometric reader. Then we wipe our keyboard with disinfectant that smells like jasmine. Soon the office boy sprays the curtains with Dettol disinfectant that smells like pineapple. By the time we get back home we smell like we have been working at a fancy bar that serves fragrant and fruity cocktails.
More importantly, will this hand washing, sanitising and social distancing, kill our resistance over time? Now that we have time, we can read up on it.
Speaking of reading, some of us have been consuming so much information about Coronavirus that we are starting to sound like medical professionals. I have started using words like Prophylactic and Cytotoxicity.
As I obsessively follow the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine by reading scientific papers and Drug Trial reports, I find myself at ease reading sentences such as: “CQ (N4-(7-Chloro-4-quinolinyl)-N1,N1-diethyl-1,4-pentanediamine) has long been used to treat malaria and amebiasis. However, Plasmodium falciparum developed widespread resistance to it…”. Virology suddenly seems exciting.
The vaccine trial reports read like a novel, a thriller where a group of scientists find ways to kill an enemy that is hell bent on destroying our species. In my younger days if I had studied like the way I have consumed information about Coronavirus I may have got admission to IIT or MIT, if not, I would have at least spared my parents anxiety when exams came around.
It is a testing time for India, its people and its leadership. So let’s all listen to the PM, stay at home and step out to our balconies, walk up to our gates at 5 pm Sunday and clap for our medical professionals.
Oh! And while we all clap for our doctors, can the Government implement the Medical Protection Act that protects our medical professionals from assault? We are sure they would prefer that to claps, because the Act protects them from the slaps.
P.S.: It is being reported that people are consuming a lot of Vitamin C supplements to build their immunity. Vitamin C supplements “may” give you rock hard immunity, but if you don’t drink lots of water it could make you rock hard with pain as it can give you kidney stones. Consult your doctor before taking Vitamin C supplements.
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