Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. 2, May 1-15, 2020
The city of Chennai that was Madras has been in an unprecedented state of lockdown since the third week of March. It is of course not alone in this, for the rest of the country, and indeed much of the world is pretty much in the same situation. With the numbers in the city spiking of late, the Government has toed the line when it comes to the Central Government’s directive that the lockdown be extended by two more weeks – to May 17th. This is to the good, at least as far as keeping a check on the spread of the virus is concerned. But what thereafter? Does the State Government have a clear idea on what it wants done? This does not appear to be the case.
That at least is the feeling you get when you consider the so-called partial lifting of the lockdown effective May 4. It may still be early days, but what prevails is a sense of chaos. The police, at least those on the road, have no clue as to what the directives are for this partial opening up. Similarly, the document that was brought out by the Government listing dos and don’ts was vague in the extreme. Numerous types of businesses have been left out altogether. What happens to these? And can they partially reopen or not? What is meant by industrial estates being allowed to open to with “25 per cent workers (a minimum of 20 persons)”? Does it mean the company ought to be employing at least 20 people and so be allowed to open with five people or is it that the 25 per cent itself must mean a minimum of 20 people? When IT and ITES companies are allowed to open with ten per cent staff, has anyone in authority even given thought to whether it is worthwhile running an office for that kind of number, especially in an industry that can work safely from home? In the meanwhile, there is more chaos in the outside world – of shops and establishments.
Many of these assumed they were back in business and people thronged to them. In most places the authorities had to order a closure. Do people need passes to move around? Yes, according to some, no according to others. The portal that is to issue the passes has remained in a state of suspended animation since the morning, with a message that it is still being updated. Is that a euphemism for the site being unable to handle the load of applications? We don’t know for sure. The State would do well to follow the example of Karnataka, where such passes are not required, people need to carry ID cards, that is all. Ultimately, it is best that people discipline themselves.
We dare not, henceforth, dismiss calamities of global dimension as being outside the realm of probability. The tiny virus, of which there can be a million or more on a pinpoint, has humbled mighty nations. Though ruthless, it spares those who are back to simple practices that our grandmothers insisted upon at one time – wash feet, hands and face and gargle when you enter home.
Life must move on after the corona threat has abated, for the sun will still rise. The struggle for progress will resume. Recovery from an abysmal fall is not going to be easy because a lot of money is needed to repair the damage and return to the path of progress, but not enough is available. The resumed race may not necessarily be to the swift but to the bold, the innovative and the resilient.
The Madras Eye Infirmary (MEI) was the first eye hospital, not only in India but in the whole of Asia as well, and the second oldest in the world. It was a public facility that was established in Madras city (now Chennai) in 1819 to address the ophthalmic problems of the residents of the city and the neighbourhood. Robert Richardson was its first superintendent. Whereas the Madras General Hospital, in the early days of its establishment, serviced only the British army personnel and civilians, the MEI, right from inception, serviced Indians for reasons unknown.
It is a truth universally acknowledged (sorry, Miss Jane), a truth beheld to be self-evident, that when crises arrive, leaders either emerge or have leadership thrust upon them. (Okay, bit of a quote-khichdi there. Oh well, lockdown loopiness. Whatever. Deal with it.)
Now, one of the many, man-n-n-ny ‘new normals’ that have risen to the surface these last few weeks has been “combined shopping”. Which is both sensible and responsible. But there’s a catch. Shopping implies lists, and combined shopping means combined lists.