Follow the rules: Kumbh Mela amid Covid surge
Sir — It is a shame that while a number of people blamed the Tablighi Jamaat held last year for the spread of the coronavirus, not many are being equally vociferous about the Kumbh Mela gatherings. The fact that the devotees participating in the event are being blithely unmindful about preventive protocol is not surprising. What is perplexing is the logic behind the government’s decision to allow a congregation of this scale at a time when the pandemic is at its worst in the country. Surely the educated political class did not think that such a show of blind faith would help alleviate the situation. The only answer, then, is that the Centre could not afford to disappoint the religious majority, especially when the assembly polls in Bengal are not yet over.
The number of infections has certainly spiked during the Kumbh Mela gatherings — over 1,000 people have tested positive in just 48 hours in Haridwar. But the authorities have said that there are no plans of cutting the festival short. This, along with the crowded rallies that are taking place in various parts of Bengal without any precautions, might prove to be disastrous beyond measure for the country. Who, then, will take responsibility for the lives lost? People throwing caution to the wind should remember that no amount of clanging pots and pans this time is going to make up for the deaths of medical professionals who have sacrificed their lives.
Sir — The leniency shown by the government towards the organization of the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar has resulted in the violation of all preventive rules. This is a matter of serious concern. The congregation of devotees as well as the akhadas revealed their callous attitude towards the pandemic during the shahi snaan. The devotees have been requested time and again to adhere to safety norms. But owing to their carelessness, India has now recorded the second highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world.
Had the government imposed preventive measures with the same strictness it had shown during the first wave of the pandemic, the situation would not have spiralled out of control. Owing to a sudden spike in active cases, the idea of another lockdown is now looming large. This has naturally triggered panic among migrant workers, leading them to leave their workplaces. It is likely that another job crisis will emerge in many sectors. This is not a good sign for the economy, which has already been tumbling downwards over the last few years. To mitigate the situation, the government should speed up the vaccination drive and conduct routine check-ups. Otherwise, it will face a heavy challenge, and the common people will have to have to face the music.
Sir — It is a matter of grave concern that, on the one hand, the number of Covid-19 cases continues to surge and claim lives, while, on the other, political rallies and religious gatherings like the Kumbh Mela are being permitted.
The prime minister is advising the people to save lives by wearing masks and observing physical distancing. But scenes from his public meetings do not reflect adherence to his words. Holding elections and capturing power seem to be a greater priority than saving lives. Perhaps after this spell of elections is over, the administration will come up with more stringent measures — even a lockdown may follow. Winning the seat of power should not turn into a predatory affair.
Neemuch, Madhya Pradesh
Sir — The surge of new Covid-19 cases in India — Tamil Nadu, too, has noted a spike — is disturbing. This increase has undoubtedly been caused by the violation of preventive norms by the common man and, more particularly, by political leaders who are bringing lakhs of people to attend their election rallies, without care for any protocols. Now, lakhs of devotees are attending the Kumbh Mela and other religious festivals, flouting all norms.
At the Kumbh Mela, over 100 pilgrims and 20 seers tested positive for Covid-19 within a day. Television channels showed devotees disregarding social distancing norms and not wearing masks. Fortunately, the Indian Premier League has debarred spectators this year. Otherwise it would have led to a catastrophe. When will people learn to follow rules for the safety of their own country?
Sir — It is disappointing that the Kumbh Mela was allowed to take place. Now the entire country will suffer from the spike of cases that the congregation will cause.
Sir — For a comedian, caricature is a daily tool of the trade. But a joke can soon turn sour if such comedy leads to stereotyping. This was the case with the character, Apu, a supermarket clerk of Indian descent in The Simpsons. Voiced by Hank Zakaria, Apu’s mannerisms and accent, although iconic, had become infamous for contributing to a narrow, racist view of Indian-Americans. But Zakaria has now apologized for his part in perpetuating the stereotype. This step taken by the white voice actor — he admitted to having learnt about racism through conversations and seminars — could help create a more equal society.