The challenge of lockdown 3.0
Citizens must know that the right to step out comes with duties
The first day of lockdown 3.0 has shown the challenges involved in the graded opening up of the country. On Friday, the Union government came up with a complex order — which categorised the country into red, green and orange zones; prohibited a set of activities nationally; and allowed other activities, in varying degrees, in the different zones. This made sense. India needed a calibrated loosening up to ensure that there wasn’t an immediate surge in cases.
But for this approach to succeed, there were two prerequisites. The first was proper bureaucratic implementation — and this was always going to be difficult because of the inability of local police officials or district authorities to distinguish between what was permitted and prohibited, and who to allow and who to stop. But the second, more important prerequisite was citizens exercising a high degree of responsibility.
On day 1, this was missing. The most egregious reflection of this was in liquor shops. People lined up in hundreds, often without masks, jostling with each other, to buy cases of alcohol. The police authorities had to, in some cases, resort to lathicharge or close shops. Liquor is an important source of revenue for state governments. Given the dire straits of public finances, as well as popular demand, opening stores made sense. But if citizens behave with such irresponsibility, then don’t rule out a revision of rules in the future. In times of the pandemic, it is not just about drinking responsibly — but also purchasing it responsibly. It is about maintaining social distancing and knowing that the right to step out comes with responsibilities.