Do Gaj Ki Doori, Mask Hai Jaroori!

India is at the crossroads. If caution is not exercised and safety protocols are not followed, the numbers of cases of COVID-19 could shoot up again. However, the numbers of new coronavirus infections reported in India in a span of 24 hours remained below 60,000 for the third consecutive day, taking India's COVID-19 caseload to 76,51,107, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday. India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23 and 40 lakh on September 5. It went past 50 lakh on September 16, 60 lakh on September 28 and crossed 70 lakh on October 11. A committee of scientists appointed by the government recently said that coronavirus in India may have already peaked and infection will likely “run its course” by February 2021.
Addressing to the Nation on Tuesday, PM Modi sensitised the public over the coronavirus pandemic and laxity of safety measures during the festive season. He exhorted the masses to diligently adhere to Covid protocols. Invoking legendary poets of ‘Bhakti’ movement such as Sant Kabir and Tulsidas, PM Modi stressed on the public awareness about wearing masks and social distancing.  Prime Minister’s address to the Nation comes at a time when the country is witnessing a decline in the daily number of Covid-19 cases and better recovery. The economy too is picking up with many indicators suggesting a positive trend with the start of the festive season.
The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a shadow on Durga Puja festivities across India. In West Bengal, the celebrations will be muted too, with many organisers taking a range of measures, as per the state’s “General Guidelines for Durga Puja 2020”. However, there is unhappiness in certain quarters over Monday’s Calcutta High Court (HC) order that banned visitors from pandals and ordered police to set up barricades outside structures that have attracted thousands of devotees already. On Tuesday, the Durgotsav Forum, an umbrella organisation of Kolkata’s 400 biggest pujas, filed a review petition against the order. The Calcutta HC order barring crowds at Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata is the best the judiciary could have done under the prevailing circumstances. The Bengal government must fully implement the court order, instead of the strange ambivalence on display.
The festival season has a large socio-economic footprint, but this year it may be best to express faith privately. Therefore, wearing a mask and keeping social distance is must during this festival season. Remember, Do Gaj Ki Doori, Mask Hai Jaroori!

- Prabhakar Purandare

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