With the passing of 69 days nationwide lockdown in India, the central government has now extended ongoing lockdown till June 30 in containment zones and opened all activities in non-containment zones in a phased manner. Resuming all activities in non-containment zones seem to be living with a corona in India as the government is reopening amid a spike in cases of the corona. Though, resuming normalcy in economic activities in India amounted to be a matter of compulsion from livelihood point of view as more than 85 per cent people who are dependent on the informal sector, cannot wait further for a COVID-19 vaccine. The experts including the World Health Organization opined that the Coronavirus may continue for a certain period. Now, there is a need to move ahead with all economic activities following the protocols required for containing transmission of COVID-19. Therefore, the introduction of COVID-19 management as a new paradigm for Indian administration could be mandated compulsory as the spread of COVID-19 continues to rise.
COVID-19 management would be the latest paradigm in the evolution of Indian administration if India unlocks completely in the coming days amid a spike in cases of Coronavirus. COVID-19 management is nothing new but it only brings a few structural and behavioural changes of an individual’s way of life through government policies and programmes. As part of the COVID-19 management, following three programs must be compulsorily included in Indian administration if living with COVID-19 turns into reality after unlocking India.
To prevent Coronavirus from community spread, crowd management would be an indispensable constituent of COVID-19 management if nationwide lockdown is completely lifted and economic activities resume its normalcy in India. Unlocking India completely along with the opening up of whole economic activities after June 2020 may bring a paradigm shift in Indian administration as crowd management would emerge as an essential instrument of local governance for containing virus along-with maintaining law and order.
The unruly gatherings at various places like shops, malls, markets, religious places etc happened to be a casual living approach for Indian citizens in pre COVID-19 which needs to be changed through a process of crowd management after unlocking India. Although, managing crowds would be one of the most challenging tasks for local administration in India as police staffs lack in skill and proficiency required for managing crowds without regard to race, gender, religious practices, national origin, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or economic status. Hence, the government agencies, including law enforcement agencies, transport operators, major event & festival organizers etc must be well trained with crowd management strategies to maintain social distancing post lockdown India.
Professionalization of managing crowds as a discipline in Indian administration always happens to be a missing aspect since independence, as many more incidences of causalities were witnessed in places or events such as religious activities, temples, shopping malls, theatres, bus stations, train stations, sports events, cinemas etc. Keeping in mind these unfortunate incidences occurred on account of unruly gathering, crowd management should be viewed seriously as a national policy framework in India which also helps contain widespread COVID-19.
Hence, all the laws related to controlling mass gathering or events, namely Police Act 1861, Madras Police Act 1888, The United Province Melas Act, 1938, Delhi Cinematographs Rule 1953 need to be seriously implemented by the states to organize events, assemblies and markets as per the COVID-19 protocol set by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Reducing the Digital Divide
Post-lockdown India, fight against COVID-19 will get strengthened if India focuses on reducing the digital divide at the policy level. It has been 25 years since the internet was opened to the public, but “digital divide” always remains the foremost question which needs to be understood in this COVID-19 phase. The more people will be digital in their way of life, the more fight against COVID-19 could triumph. But, in India, there are over 566 million internet users and only 200 million are from rural India, which accounts for almost 67 per cent of the country’s total population. Further, the gender gap in terms of internet users in India also exists as one of the highest in the world as only 16 per cent of women are connected to the mobile internet.
Whereas, the fight against COVID-19 may be led only if people at large happens to be a digital habitual while accessing their daily basic services like usage of mobile apps for cash transactions, online shopping, e-commerce, online teaching-learning etc. In the post-lockdown India, we are going to see a spike into the dependency on digital infrastructure, digital content and the digital economy. For instance, ‘Aarogya Setu’ App and web-check-in are mandated for travelling by flight. But, those who are not connected to the internet are being adversely affected. Hence, taking the fight against COVID-19 as an opportunity, the government should take big strides towards becoming a digital India.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), launched in 2014 by the central government as an initiative for making cleanliness a priority for every government, institution and citizen, will act as a milestone for containing COVID-19 as the objectives of the mission helps spread information, education and communication to promote personal hygiene. The lack of basic facilities such as running water, soap for handwashing, one toilet for one home and sewage disposal, etc have increased the risk of infections of COVID-19, particularly in Maharashtra as per the official reports from the BMC and inter-ministerial team. Hence, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, sanitizations, cleanliness and basics like clean water, wastage disposals etc will get boosted up which has been recommended globally as a crucial defence against COVID-19.
SBM helps India to become self-reliant in terms of dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic as the fight will continue for a long time. In this perspective, government deserved to be applauded as the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry of the central government has already launched a revised and updated version of the Swachhata App under SBM under which structural change in daily life about personal hygiene could be ensured after unlocking India.
In conclusion, fight against COVID-19 after unlocking India would depend upon several factors such as protocols set by the Ministry of Home Affair, World Health Organization and other concerned agencies. But, people have to show their ripeness and maturity by following the guidelines as well as being ethically strong in their way of life such as habitual usages of hygiene products such as hand washes, sanitizers, female hygiene products, face masks etc. The institutional measures as COVID-19 management will prove as a masterstroke against the COVID-19 provided that behavioural changes among people could be seen after unlocking India.
The author is an Assistant Professor, MANUU. He is currently the Project Director for Minor Research Project sponsored by ICSSR, MHRD, Govt. of India.