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Living with the Virus

Pachu Menon Pachu Menon
24 Jan 2022

Goa is all set to go to polls on Valentine’s Day!

As the most romantic day of the year, the buzz that surrounds the Valentine’s Day will be watered down by the solemnity that is usually attached to elections.

However, going by the jovial nature of Goans, it is assured that the serious business of casting one’s precious vote in the day will give way to boisterous celebrations in the night.

But as two great celebrations, both, the elections -- which is rightly called the festival of democracy -- and the Valentine Day will attract huge crowds. Yet, how prepared is the state to cope with the health exigencies with the new variant of the virus on the prowl!

If we are to accept the contention by the scientific community that the coronavirus is here to stay, there is a sense of great urgency and need for the government and the public to come together and share responsibilities now than ever before.

But it is the manner in which the phrase ‘coming to terms with the virus’ has been mutated to suit personal interests that has been worrying.

The off the cuff remark by the Panchayat Minister that people may have to learn to live with COVID hence assumes all the more significance considering that elections, as a constitutional requirement, cannot be avoided.

Now elections, as we know, cannot and will not be a closed-door affair. For that matter, as a ‘public event’ it will involve huge gatherings. Right from campaigning to the casting of votes, it is the proximity to the people that will decide the electoral fate of politicians.

Considering the party-hopping that has characterized the recent political trend in the state, it can be said that a semblance of order will set in only after all the parties are done with their final list of nominations.

Even then, there is not going to be any let-up as the aspirants will ensure that the electorate never has a chance to forget them; not at least until the elections are over! Congregating crowds will be a natural fallout!

While Goa should have been extremely cautious as one of the states of concern due to the rise in Covid cases, the state appears to exult in its inglorious status.    

Considering the whopping positivity rate, it is a wonder that the state administration appears smug in its decisions taken with regard to the control measures.

Normal life is in full flow, the restrictions imposed hardly have any relevance, markets and other public places remain crowded and campaigning continues at full steam.

With the Assembly elections barely a month away, the political class has spared no efforts in ensuring that elections and anything related to it is the priority subject in the state -- at least for now. 

By treating the fresh outbreak as ‘mild’ much against the WHO advisory, are attempts being made to downplay the fears associated with the infections and keep up the electioneering momentum?

One can readily recall the hullaballoo over the ‘bungling’ that characterized Covid-management in the first two phases of the pandemic in the state. The politics played out over the handling of the situation saw the government of the day being torn to shreds over its inaptness. 

As is rightly said, many of the leaders cutting across party lines, including those from the local bodies, were then visibly concerned about the deteriorating situation in their wards and constituencies. The village-wise restrictions imposed were the first of its kind and showed the leaders in a new light.

Where then has this sensitiveness disappeared? When it comes to their ‘brotherhood’, are the rules any different? As that vehicle which could drive them to positions of power, are elections something not to be compromised with – the severities of the times notwithstanding?

The exemptions they have granted themselves sets apart this class which could even go to the extent of jeopardizing the lives of the people to achieve its objectives – as good as saying that the end justifies the means. 

No wonder then that the state in an election mood is witnessing a rampage of unhindered callousness by the political class which is conspicuous by its blatant disregard for the basic safety protocols prescribed to keep the virus at bay.

It is strange that in its attempts to ‘live with the virus’, the state has formulated its own set of rules. It is as if the virus conforms to a seasonal pattern and the safety protocols are to be followed with every cycle of the waxing and waning viral infections.

This however does appear to be the state’s general approach towards the mutating virus from now on. And the public too evidently endorse it.

When the state, with no care about the marauding virus, ushered in the New Year with gala-functions and festivities that stunned a pandemic-weary nation, it was assured that Goa would suffer in the aftermath of the senseless celebrations.

But wasn’t such a situation warranted by the ‘desperateness’ shown by the public to ‘break free’ after remaining cooped up in their homes amidst rigid restrictions for months at a stretch?

If it wasn’t for the sudden affinity shown by the people to ‘enjoy’ their lives and ‘freedom’ after ‘hiding’ away from the blight of the virus for so long …

If only it wasn’t for the ‘revulsion’ shown by the members of the public towards the mandatory protective procedures stipulated …

It’s a long line of ‘Ifs’, but conditional clauses which could have been annulled if the masses were to be more responsive to the precautionary agenda insisted upon by the medical fraternity and the administration.

The successful implementation of any programme -- especially when it comes to tiding over calamities that affect the entire state -- requires the whole-hearted support of the public.

It hence appears that the government here has turned into an epitome of inefficiency vis-à-vis the Covid management solely due to the ‘rebellious’ nature of the locals who have their own ideas about living with the virus.

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