The chal­lenge of lock­down 3.0

Cit­i­zens must know that the right to step out comes with du­ties

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - SPOTLIGHT -

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.

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